Where will the grenades explode that were lost in Adjara?03.04.2009 | 09:50
Grenades have gone missing from the Georgian army. It's obviously not just two or three, but a sufficiently large number for reports on this to reach the media. And this during a visit to Georgia by the American military. And in the run-up to the Georgian opposition rallies.
The country's Defence Ministry confirmed an incident of flagrant unprofessionalism within the Georgian army. Some F-1 and RGD-5 grenades have disappeared from the Fifth Infantry Brigade based in Adjara. The discrepancy was discovered following a check carried out by the inventory commission. "On 27th March 2009 Georgia's department of military police launched a preliminary inquiry into this incident. A criminal case has been opened under article 339 of the Georgian Criminal Code," declared the head of the investigative department of the military police, Gaga Kirkitadze. According to this article, those responsible for the disappearance could end up behind bars for two years. The number of "lost" grenades has not been revealed.
The incident in the Fifth Brigade became known during a visit to the country by the deputy chairman of the US Army General Staff, James Cartwright. But the commander in chief of the Georgian army did not appear embarrassed. Quite the opposite, Mikheil Saakashvili assured the American that Georgia was continuing to establish far more powerful armed forces, was increasing the amount of weapons, soldiers and staff, and was increasing the level of training. The president's laudatory ode to the professional military greatly impressed the guest, especially following their visit to the military base in Gori which was built two years ago to NATO standards. After the meeting with Saakashvili, James Cartwright, as the Georgian media report, stated: "You have a very good army. We are very aware of what has been done. I will be glad to continue to cooperate with them in the future." As the Georgian president remarked, the military and political relations between the two countries, as provided for in the strategic partnership charter, have reached a new stage. One of the signs of their strengthening bilateral relations is reflected in yesterday's promise made by the Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze to send 100 Georgian peacekeepers to Afghanistan.
The image of the army painted by Saakashvili is actually not so faultless. A good example is the grenades which were probably sold with the knowledge of commanders. The arms trade brings good income. Even some members of the regime are not averse to making a profit from arms purchases. Georgia's former prime minister Zurab Nogaideli expressed his suspicions in this respect back in February. "This was mentioned back in summer 2007, but at the time I didn't believe it. I was profoundly confident that it was impossible to make money from weapons in Georgia. I was sure that the $2 billion which had been spent on acquiring weapons, and Mikheil Saakashvili was personally involved in this, would be used for the good of the country. But in August we saw what weaponry had actually been acquired. This is treachery," he was quoted as saying by Rosbalt. The leader of the Movement for a Just Georgia demanded that lists of military purchases carried out in the last 3-4 years should be published along with prices and all the details of the contracts. This, of course, was not done.
In the run-up to the April rallies, the arms trade has obviously come to life. This is confirmed both by the loss of the grenades and the recent scandal surrounding the arrest of supporters of Nino Burjanadze and Zurab Nogaideli. All sorts of accusations were made against them - from the illegal harbouring of weapons to planning an armed revolt. When presenting the video footage of talks with arms traders, the authorities preferred to conceal their faces and names. The question of where they got hold of the illegal machine guns and pistols did not seem to have been answered by the footage.
Burjanadze still thinks that these video recordings were fabricated. "The story of the arrests is very strange," she said yesterday. "We didn't see any actual clips of the purchase (of weapons), and especially clips which would have made it clear that it was an organized group," argues the leader of the party "Democratic Movement - A United Georgia". "As a lawyer and wife of the former prosecutor general, I can say that I don't know of a single criminal case where a person has come to purchase weapons and tells the trader what he needs them for. Especially if he is planning a state coup," remarked Burjanadze.
The former speaker again confirmed that the opposition was ruling out an armed struggle on 9th April. However, acts of provocation from "fake" participants in the action are, according to her, quite likely. "We need to do everything we can to ensure that there is no shooting and no violence. But nothing can be ruled out - especially with this government. And everything that I see now tells me that they are planning to use force. And they need grounds to do this," warned the former speaker. Perhaps the grenades that went missing in Adjara will explode on the day of the mass protest action, acting as a signal to crush the opposition revolt.