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A year later, what happened at Lapankuri remains unclear

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, August 30
A year has passed since the incident at Lapankuri and the truth of what happened remains unclear. Citing the murkiness around the incident, Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili has proposed creating a special public investigative committee to find out what really happened on August 29, 2012.

"Neither under the former government or the previous government has the truth been revealed. Therefore a special public investigation committee should be established that will investigate the case." Nanuashvili stated.

Khatuna Chokheli, sister of Archil Chokheli, a Georgian special force's member who died in the Lapankuri operation, believes her brother was killed by the Georgian government representatives as part of a conspiracy. "Bacho Akhalaia and those in the Kakheti intelligence service are responsible for my brother's death." Khatuna Chokheli stated.

"The reason [they killed him] was because of the salary my brother had received from Bidzina Ivanishvili...I haven't ruled out the possibility that the government asked my brother to kill Ivanishvili and when he refused they killed him." Chokheli stated.

Merab Margoshvili, the father of another individual who was killed at Lapankuri, believes that the government needs time for adequate investigation.

“All the evidence was practically destroyed (by former officials)when the new government came into power." Margoshvili stated, adding that there is incriminating evidence against former high-ranking Georgian officials who participated in the operation.

United National Movement members have categorically denied the version pushed forward by the public defender.

Sandro Amiridze, former head of the Kakheti intelligence service, claims his actions were responsible for keeping Georgia from being invaded by Russia. "I saved Georgia from war with Russia... I expected a medal afterwards." Amiridze said. He denies any conspiracy.

Irakli Sesiashvili, head of Parliament’s Defence and Security Committee, states that the case is too complicated and an investigation will require considerable time and energy. Sesiashvili doubts whether the public investigation committee initiated by Nanuashvili will have any legal power.

"It is more like to journalistic investigation." Sesiashvili admitted.

On August 29, 2012, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), stated that it was carrying out an anti-terrorist operation against an armed group close to the village Lapankuri in the Lopota Gorge, not far from the Dagestan section of the Georgian-Russian border. Later on the same day, the MIA announced that eleven armed individuals and three Georgian special service personnel had been killed in a clash that was preceded by a hostage-taking incident. After initial denials, the Interior Ministry confirmed on September 2nd that among the gunmen killed in the clash, two were Georgian citizens. The public defender said in his report that the armed group involved in the clash was formed, armed and trained by the then leadership of the Georgian Interior Ministry, which recruited members of the group mainly from Chechen exiles living in Georgia. According to Nanuashvili, the MIA officials promised to give them free passage to Russia’s North Caucasus via Georgia.

"The 2012 parliamentary elections were approaching and the internal political situation was getting tense in Georgia. This triggered assumptions among the Chechen militants that the reason for keeping them in Georgia longer than scheduled was related to the elections and the possibility of being used in some form in the electoral process." Nanuashvili's report reads. According to Nanuashvili, the Chechen paramilitaries demanded that their Georgian handlers give them passage to Russia as promised. Instead the UNM government carried out a special operation against the Chechen militants.