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Georgian government concerned over Russian military exercises

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, April 4
Georgian authorities see a serious threat in the military exercises planned by the Russian Federation for this fall. The events, taking place near the Georgian border, are planned to coincide with Georgian parliamentary elections, Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said Tuesday.

Vashadze noted that Georgia is on a foreign policy path that irritates Russia, "meaning the existence of sovereignty and territorial integrity, [and] participation in the Euro-Atlantic [sphere]. As long as there is this will in Georgian society and a government that aims to fulfill the will, this threat will exist," he maintained.

The Foreign Minister also noted that Russian military training planned for 2012 is on a larger scale than the exercises that took place in 2008, which were interpreted as aggressive in Georgia. He says that the government has been unable to get a satisfactory answer from Russia about the purpose of the exercises.

United National Movement MP Nugzar Tsiklauri spoke about possible threats to Georgia from Russian military activity, and mentioned that statements from the Georgian Dream opposition coalition, regarding the alleged formation of illegal paramilitary groups in west Georgia, might give the Russians a reason to carry out provocative military actions.

As Georgian Dream representatives have claimed, the administration is organizing partisan armed groups in case of unrest during the election period. They denied that they raised the issue so that "the information could be misused by some foreign power", noting that it was the decision of the National Security Council to publicize the opposition group's findings.

As member of Our Georgia-Free Democrats, Viktor Dolidze, told The Messenger, both the Russian and Georgian governments have their own obligations. "The Georgian authorities should ensure free and democratic elections and fulfill its obligations regarding this issue, without blaming others for disturbing the process. As for Russia, of course its actions [conducting the exercises] do not fit in any legal or constitutional frames; it is unacceptable and we condemn this".

Military analyst and member of Georgian Dream, Irakli Sesiashvili, says that the goal of the exercises is for Russia to demonstrate its power in the eyes of Europe, rather than to threaten Georgia, "as Russia does not need to do this; it already has really serious bases in our occupied regions". He notes that, with the supposed paramilitary groups, the Georgian government is trying to make the western regions secure, "as [they believe] if the current leadership loses the election, a pro-Russian course will be [enacted], which is absolute absurd".

Irakli Aladashvili, the Editor-in-Chief of the military analysis newspaper Arsenali, told The Messenger that the exercises are a means of making threats. As he explained, the training, despite consisting only of Russian units, involve bases located on Armenian territory and in Georgian breakaway regions. "Therefore, when such training is carried out on your border it contains risks. Similar military training occurred in 2008, which moved into war. The Georgian authorities should behave more responsible, involve the international community in the issue [as much as possible], and be more careful and make fewer mistakes than they did [in 2008]," the analyst said, noting that military exercises do not necessarily mean war, and any claims as such are "exaggeration".