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Russian Reports That Georgia Planning Terrorist Attacks

On October 16, the Russian daily "Izvestia" cited Russian Interior Ministry documents warning that a hitherto unknown organization named Patriots of Georgia is planning terrorist attacks in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi in retaliation for the formal recognition by Russia of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

The author suggested that the Patriots of Georgia is a cover name for the Georgian special services, who intend to coopt Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia now living in Russia to perpetrate suicide bombings and indiscriminate shooting attacks.

Georgian parliament speaker David Bakradze immediately rejected that report as "dangerous disinformation," Caucasus Press reported on October 16. He noted that Chechens were blamed, on the flimsiest of evidence, for bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in the summer of 1999, just weeks before the start of the second Chechen war.

A Stratfor analysis similarly expressed skepticism, pointing out, first, that tactics such as suicide bombings are typical of the North Caucasus Islamic resistance, but not of a Christian culture such as Georgia's; and second, that the terror attacks the Georgians have perpetrated to date have been amateurish and inflicted only limited damage.

The analysis suggested the "Izvestia" story was pure disinformation intended both to discredit Georgia and to serve as a warning to the country's leaders not to risk any military or covert actions that could trigger a new Russian counterattack.

There is some circumstantial evidence out there suggesting that Georgian special forces may have acquired additional expert training in the use of explosives. Photographs from a computer reportedly seized in August 2008 when Russian troops expelled Georgian forces from the upper reaches of Abkhazia's Kodori Gorge and posted on a Russian website apparently show U.S. military instructors or contractors demonstrating to Georgian troops how to construct explosive devices. But it's not clear where or when the photographs were taken.

Assuming, however, that the photographs are genuine, it seems strange that Moscow has opted not to publicize them more widely in the context of its warnings of a purported nebulous Georgian terrorist threat -- unless the Russian leadership considers it pointless and counterproductive to raise the issue with a lame-duck administration in Washington, especially at a time when bilateral relations are still strained in the wake of the war in Georgia.

-- Liz Fuller

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