Dangerous Secret Games
13 September, 2012
Dangerous Secret Games

To Lopota Gorge – from Dagestan or Pankisi?!

Special operation conducted at the end of August in the Lopota gorge in Kakheti region of eastern Georgia claimed lives of 3 Georgian policemen and 1 serviceman  and 11 insurgents but raised a lot of questions. The main question is what the armed people were planning to do if they really were terrorists and infiltrated the Georgian territory from Dagestan as the Authorities claim.

So far MIA failed to name

the main task of the armed group crashed in the Lopota gorge. By the look of it, they couldn’t do it because the intruders were neither saboteurs nor insurgents from Dagestan! The circumstance that the group did not come from Dagestan drastically changes the entire picture.

Georgian mass media has already come up with comments of eye witnesses which seem sound enough for us to conclude that the group must have been formed and armed in the Pankisi gorge, from where it moved to the Lopota gorge with an aim to cross over the Georgian-Russian border into Dagestan.

How the armed group turned up in the Lopota gorge is the question leading to the problem with many unknowns. Two dozens of men with impressive arsenal including machine guns and grenade launchers could not have moved from the Pankisi gorge to the Lopota gorge because of multiple mountain ridges that crisscross a rather short distance of 30 km between them. Most likely, the armed group formed in the Pankisi gorge reached the outskirts of the Lopota gorge, i.e. Lapankuri village, by car using the asphalt road. By the way, Lapankuri village residents recall that several days before the special operation they noticed a pickup on the village road carrying bearded men just like those killed in the operation.

If this version is true, another question needs to be answered. What the local police, patrol, counter intelligence or anti-terrorist center (all of them belong to MIA), if they work adequately, were  doing, if they missed to notice the movement of some two dozen of armed people on the Georgian territory? Just pay attention that the Pankisi gorge is 40-50km away from Lapankuri.

The validity of a second version is hard to check. But it looks to be the closest to reality because the Georgian side knew about the movement of the armed group from the Pankisi gorge to the Lopota gorge and probably even oiled it. Apparently, only this version can explain success of the translocation because in the last years the MIA anti-terrorist center and local police have been holding more or less tight control over the Pankisi gorge. Normally, nothing should have escaped their attention, including the formation of the group.

One may ask another question. If the Georgian special services were aware of the group being formed in the Pankisi gorge and then moving towards the Lopota gorge, why have the special services decided to attack them only after the group reached the last section of the route near the Georgian-Russian border? Normally the group should have been neutralized much earlier, while moving on the road in vehicles, and without their physical elimination.

According to one of the versions, Russian special services may have learnt about the intention of the armed group to cross into Dagestan and gave a sort of ultimatum to Tbilisi - “if the armed men cross into Russia, we are going to accuse Georgia of training and sending terrorists into the neighboring country, which would tarnish the international image of your country.” This move allegedly incited the Georgian side to venture into stopping the armed group for negotiations. However, it is not known why they failed to reach a consensus. The fact is, the half of the group got eliminated in a sudden attack. This is confirmed by a video recording which shows the killed guerillas lying in the sleeping bags.

The version according to which the armed group used to be in contacts with Georgian special services is solidified by several facts. Among others, it is claimed that some of the group members used to fight in the August 2008 war on the Georgian side, maybe even in the Tskhinvali armed clashes that occurred in 2004. Surely, the special services must have been familiar with them.

Having considered the said circumstances, we can logically assume that the Georgian special services knew about the formation of the armed group in the Pankisi gorge and its itinerary, and perhaps about the similar facts occurring repeatedly in the past.

Given that the Russian government always seeks to find a reason for resuming military aggression against Georgia, dangerous secret games of Tbilisi related to ongoing armed confrontations in the North Caucasus is surely strange. Most of the members of armed groups fighting against Russian federal forces in the North Caucasus are recognized as terrorists by both Moscow and Washington. Therefore, collaboration with these men, even secretly, won’t benefit Georgian strategic interests.

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