After 2 years of continuing claims of the Russian side, on January 30 Georgian government admitted for the first time presence of Chechen fighters in Pankisi gorge.
As Nugzar Sajaia, Chairman of the National Security Council of Georgia has stated, together with the Chechen refugees in Pankisi, there indeed are the persons who have been participating in military actions against the Russian federal forces in Chechnya.
Admission of the fact of presence of Chechen guerillas in Pankisi by the official Tbilisi has been prompted by the visit of the Russian National Security Council Chairman Vladimir Rushailo on January 29-30.
During the visit Rushailo met his Georgian counterpart Nugzar Sajaia, President Shevardnadze, the ministers of Foreign Affairs, State Security, Internal Affairs and the Parliament Chairperson.
Issue of Pankisi gorge topped the agenda of Rushailo’s meeting with the Georgian authorities. “After meeting with President Shevardnadze, situation in Pankisi should improve radically” – said Rushailo on January 29.
During the meeting with the Georgian parliamentarians on January 30, Vladimir Rushailo mentioned that Georgia and Russia must resolve problems in Akhmeta district of Georgia together.
“Pankisi gorge is a serious problem for Georgia. Together with the refugees there are the fighters as well, who crossed Russian-Georgian state border illegally” – Rushailo said. Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili and the Chairman of the National Security Council Nugzar Sajaia conceded to this statement.
Nugzar Sajaia stated on January 30, that Georgia is ready for tight cooperation with Russia to resolve the difficult situation in the gorge. As Nugzar Sajaia has announced after meeting with the Russian counterpart, there is an instruction of the president Shevardnadze regarding the need of stronger cooperation between the Georgian and Russian law enforcers.
“Law enforcers of the two states do have relations. These agencies already cooperate and will continue to do so in the future,” Rushailo said. However, none of the sides have spoken on exact modes of cooperation and joint activity.
Ministries of Interior and the State Security categorically deny the claims by some Russian media sources, that military or police action with Russian participation is possible in Pankisi.
Narchemashvili claims that the Georgian side has sufficient ability to handle the situation in Pankisi with its own forces.
However, development of the joint policy approach may be well under way to initiate repatriation of the Chechen refugees from Pankisi. During the meeting with Shevardnadze on January 29, Rushailo stated that the Russian side already started activities in this direction.
According to Rushailo’s statement, in the nearest future delegation of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations will visit Georgia to discuss the issue of repatriation of the Chechen refugees.
On January 30 the chairmen of the national security councils of the two countries signed a protocol on cooperation between the National Security Councils of Russia and Georgia.
The document gives highest priority to combating international terror, organized crime, drug trafficking and illegal financial operations.
By Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia