- Posted October 25, 2008 by
Georgian Int. Chief Testifies Before War Commission
A parliamentary commission studying causes of the August war launched its hearings on October 25 with the testimony of Gela Bezhuashvili, the head of foreign intelligence service.
The commission session was divided into two parts with the first one public, which was aired live by the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s second channel and the second one was behind the closed-doors as the information delivered by the intelligence chief was, as he put it, “of sensitive nature” and “the state secret.”
An official name of the commission is a Temporary Commission to Study Russia’s Military Aggression and Other Actions Undertaken with the Aim to Infringe Georgia’s Territorial Integrity.
Below are the key points of the Bezhuashvili’s testimony:
*The information available for us was giving us a ground to assume that Russia was planning the military intervention.
*The political will existed among the Russian leadership to carry out radical measures against Georgia.
*Analysis of both open and secret sources indicated that provocations were being prepared in the conflict areas, involving training and armament of the separatists forces, as well as preparing Kozaks for sending into the conflict areas.
*Russian troops were being mobilized at the Georgian border and they have been ordered to launch a military operation “in case of escalation of tensions” – that is a quote from their instructions. But here I have to state that everything was done by Russia to escalate tensions.
*In addition to this, a diplomatic campaign was underway by Russia to portray Georgia as an aggressor and the propaganda campaign was underway aimed at convincing the international community that Georgia was planning a military operation.
*A principle decision to carry out an aggression against Georgia was taken by Russia in the second half of 2007; that decision was then followed by series of provocations.
We were briefing the President and key ministries – including the Defense Ministry and Ministry of Internal Affairs - about these developments.
*The top leadership of Russia had a stance that Georgia should have been punished because of its foreign policy course.
*Provocations were planned with the use of separatists, which should have become a pretext for invasion.
*Russia’s motives were – according to our information – Moscow was concerned over strengthening of Georgia’s statehood and positive developments in the Tskhinvali region, involving rehabilitation projects there reference to some reconstruction projects carried out on the Tbilisi-controlled ares of South Ossetia under the auspices of the Tbilisi-backed South Ossetian provisional administration, led by Dimitri Sanakoev, as well as in Zemo Abkhazia Kodori Gorge – the only part of breakaway Abkhazia, which was under the Tbilisi’s control before the August war - Russia was losing grip on the conflict areas, in particular in South Ossetia; Russia was also concerned about Georgia’s success on the international arena and about Georgia’s NATO integration.
*Russia failed to undermine Georgia’s economy by embargo and the only level left for Russia was a direct military intervention;
*Russia was in hurry to create a secured buffer zone in Abkhazia ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games Sochi is about 40 kilometers away from the Abkhaz border.
*The goal of the intervention was – we do not claim that this is a complete list –overthrowing the Georgian government and imposing a regime favorable for Russia; reversing the Georgia’s foreign policy course; blocking or control of the energy transit routes and preventing creation of a democratic state in Russia’s neighborhood.
*The war did not start on August 7, The Russian troops were on the Georgian territory and they were carrying out hidden annexation long before the August events.
*Russia started deployment of
additional troops in March, 2008 and intensive deployment of the more troops started in May and June, 2008 – here he made a reference to Russia’s decision to send extra peacekeeping troops and railway forces to Abkhazia.
*On August 7 – early in the morning a large number of troops and hardware came into South Ossetia – here he made a reference to the evidence put forth by the Georgian authorities, involving intercepted phone conversations between the South Ossetian militiamen.
*Mobilization of air forces started at the Mozdok airdrome in Russia’s North Ossetian Republic.
*Awaks type spy plane landed in Mozdok either on August 4 or August 5. This is the plane, which is capable of correcting the artillery fire.
*On August 7 – Additional troops came into the Ochamchire district of Abkhazia.
*We had a large inflow of information about these developments, involving movement of the Russian troops and we were transferring this information to the Interior and Defense Ministries.
*Assessment of the expected scale of the aggression was not easy.
*On August 9 evening, we have seen significant increase of the Russian military involved in the aggression – that is the day when Russia’s PM Vladimir Putin arrived in Vladikavkaz.
*At the closed-door session I will give you figures indicating on that increase.
*After August 9 the scale of aggression has significantly increased and we have information that Putin’s arrival in Vladikavkaz was in connection to this increase.
The nature of the military exercise held close to the Georgian border in the North Caucasus by the Russian forces under the codename – Kavkaz 2008, was different from those, which were held in the same areas in previous years. I will tell you details about this matter at the closed-door session.
*One of the motives of the Russian aggression was to deter Georgia’s NATO integration.
*The decision of the NATO Bucharest summit not to grant Georgia a membership action plan amounted to giving Russia an indirect veto on Georgia’s NATO integration, which in turn has untied Russia’s hands.
*I will answer that question – whether the western intelligence services were providing us with the information related with the planned Russian aggression – at the closed-door session.
*We – the intelligence service – have been expecting that Russia would start escalation of tensions in September, October or in November, 2008. Other Georgian agencies were supposing earlier dates and as it turned out those agencies were right.
*From August 2 was on a business trip abroad he did not specify where he was – I will tell you details about that trip at the closed-door session – I returned back to Georgia late on August 8.
*I have informed the National Security Council about our the intelligence service supposition of expected Russian aggression.
*It has been failed to timely adapt the the national security concept in accordance to the new threats.
*We had no intelligence information that Russia was planning to occupy western Georgia – including Poti, Senaki and Zugdidi.
*We have not made any analysis of speculations related with possible espionage of government members who have double Russo-Georgian citizenship – Bezhuashvili made this remarks after the commission chairman, MP Paata Davitaia, asked him that there were questions about the role of Kakha Bendukidze, head of the government’s administration and a former state minister for reforms.
Once we have informed the Economy Ministry about an investor, which was planning investments in the strategic sector; the letter included information about who was behind that investor; that was an energy sector. We are not aware about the reaction on our letter.
Bezhuashvili said that he would answer a question whether Russia had allies inside Georgia amid aggression at a closed-door session.
A member of the commission, MP Levan Vepkhvadze, asked Bezhuashvili what did Vladimir Putin whispered him during the meeting between the Georgian and Russian Presidents in Moscow on February 21, 2008. During the handshake ceremony in the beginning of the meeting TV cameras captured Putin approaching Bezhuashvili, who also attended the meeting, and whispering something into the ear.
Bezhuashvili told the commission members with the smile on his face that he would answer that question at the closed-door session.