Incident in Ganmukhuri was a provocation by the Georgian authorities aimed at internal consumption amid wave of anti-governmental protest rallies, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on November 1.
“There is no doubt that actions of the Georgian leadership and in particular of President Saakashvili, including in that particular incident [in Ganmukhuri] are mainly determined by the internal political situation in Georgia,” the statement reads.
“Protests against the [Georgian] authorities are growing; popular rating of President Saakashvili is declining. As it usually happens, the authorities are trying to solve internal crisis at the expense of distracting public attention from it [internal crisis] through showy actions on the international arena. “In the light of anticipated protest rallies of Georgian opposition, it is not ruled out that one may expect more harsh steps from Saakashvili directed towards aggravation of the situation in the zones of Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts and towards further deterioration of the Russian-Georgian relations.”
In the same statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry, provided in details its version of events of the October 30 incident and said that five Georgian policemen were detained by the Russian peacekeepers only after they attempted to hinder peacekeepers’ unit to monitor the area.
It also said that the Russian side was ready to hand over detained Georgian policemen, but the local Georgian officials refused the deal after receiving instructions from their bosses to wait for President Saakashvili’s arrival.
During the incident, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Georgian troops on the ground fired shots on a Russian helicopter which was sent by peacekeepers to provide an aerial support to their unit on the ground. A bullet, it said, hit the door of the undercarriage of the helicopter.
“During the entire period of confrontation with the Georgian side, the Russian servicemen have not violated their mandate and refrained from using arms (although the provocative nature of the situation created by the Georgian side authorized them to do so with the purpose of self-defense),” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Following the incident the Georgian side demanded to replacement of the commander of the Russian peacekeeping troops in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Sergey Chaban. “I have announced him as undesirable person in Georgia,” President Saakashvili said.
In a separate statement also issued on November 1, the Russian Foreign Ministry, however, said that only the decision-making body of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) can replace the commander of peacekeepers in Abkhazia. Russian troops there are stationed under the CIS aegis.
It said that the Council of CIS Defense Ministers, which will gather in Astana on November 27, has to decide about replacement of Sergey Chaban.