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Militants in Pankisi: reality or stale provocation?29.07.2009 | 14:09
There are nearly 40 militants in Pankisi Gorge of Georgia to be redeployed to Chechnya and Ingushetia as stated by Zaal Kasrelishvili, president of notorious Confederation of Caucasian Peoples in his interview with Kviris Palitra with reference to the information by the organization's security service and his supporters in Europe, Asia and North Caucasus.
The statement is both a sensation and a provocation, putting it straight.
First of all, who is Zaal Kasrelishvili?
It will be remembered that March 1 was the last day of the "Confederation of Caucasian Peoples" congress in Vienna with the representatives of the so-called Caucasus Emirate (a quasi-state theocratic establishment accounting for the warfare North Caucasian underground is conducting) taking part in it as monitors.
The call for "unification of the Caucasian nations against aggressive colonial policy of Russia in the Caucasus" was the core idea of the resolution adopted at the congress. Zaal Kasrelishvili was elected president of the Secular Confederation of Caucasian Peoples at the forum - he is the only Georgian who came to Vienna from Tbilisi and was one of the main organizers of the Congress. Curiously enough, the Georgian delegate was not at all confused about the presence of Islamic extremists - even as observers - at the meeting.
In an interview with Andrey Babitski, a good friend of Chechen militants who is now working for Svoboda Radio Zaal Kasrelishvili said: "We believe that emigrated Caucasian diasporas have reconsidered their views. Now they are more oriented on Western values, they strive for freedom and independence but not with the methods of 1990s. I'm more than certain that integration of the Georgian public organizations and Caucasian diasporas outside Caucasus in the first place and the joint effort afterwards will make resistance against aggression of Russian leaders really effective in 3-4 years' time".
Today in his interview with Kviris Palitra this coordinator of Caucasian diasporas in Europe says: "After Russian FM Sergey Lavrov accused Georgia of harboring militants in its territory real militants came to Pankisi Gorge. They got to Georgia from Azerbaijan, and by unverified information they want to cross the Russian border. There is information that before autumn they plan to get rid of Kadyrov. Do you imagine what might happen then? Russia will have a direct pretext to invade Georgia".
Can the statements of the man close to emigrant community of Caucasians and the Georgian president's inner circle be trusted?
Mr. Kasrelishvili plays cunning saying to the Caucasian Knot correspondent that the interview with Kviris Palitra was allegedly intended to warn the Georgian authorities of the danger this adventure can bring about. However, he immediately gives away where this all comes from.
"Somebody provokes the militants that are now in the gorge to cross the border and dare the adventure with the Chechen authorities. Moscow had transferred the central HQ in charge of actions against Georgia to Chechnya planning to make war with Georgia with the help of North Caucasus authorities. I hope the people from Saakashvili's surroundings will not play an active part in this adventure; otherwise this might end in a catastrophe. I don't know for sure who exactly is provoking militants, but the Moscow trace is evident".
This is it. Georgian special services were looking for "the Moscow trace" in Pankisi - here it is! We have Mr. Kasrelishvili, a real patriot who will keep his president away from a new adventure. What a good boy!
In his interview with Caucasian Knot politologist and rights defender Paata Zakareishvili remarked he had no verified information on militants in Pankisi Gorge and was very doubtful of statements like this. "The authorities are capable of anything", - Zakareishvili asserts. - Maybe it's a fake in order to picture Russia as an enemy from a different angle and thus distract the attention of society from real problems in the state or start another big military adventure".
But are there Chechen militants now in Pankisi or is it a new provocation to disturb the public opinion? What's the goal then?
It will be remembered that in late 1990s and early 2000s because of the war in Chechnya hundreds of Chechens fled to Pankisi Gorge. According to the Russian side the squadron of field commander Ruslan Gelaev passed through Pankissi on his way from Chechnya. The scandal broke out because of the militants' deployment in Georgia forcing Russia to introduce visa regime with Georgia.
Today somebody is willing to use Pankisi as a conflict starter with Russia. We are left to hope that Russian special services have enough possibilities to disclose the secrets of Mr. Kasrelishvili's "game".