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Senior MoD Official Testifies Before War Commission
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 28 Oct.'08 / 15:35

Brig. Gen. Mamuka Kurashvili, a Georgian MoD official who was in charge of overseeing peacekeeping operations, testified on October 28 before the parliamentary commission studying the August war and said that his August 7 remarks on the launch of operations in South Ossetia, describing it as an effort “to restore constitutional order,” were not authorized by superiors and were “impulsive.”

Kurashvili was one of the key people involved in developments on the ground as he was in charge of the Georgian peacekeeping battalion, which was stationed in the region as part of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF), which also included a Russian battalion.

Shortly before midnight on August 7, Rustavi 2 TV aired remarks by Kurashvili, saying that the Georgian side was forced to start operations “to restore constitutional order in the entire region” of South Ossetia. That was the first statement made by a Georgian official indicating that Tbilisi had launched an operation to regain control over the breakaway region. The official Tbilisi line, however, is that the Georgian forces had to respond to an incursion of Russian troops in the region and the goal was to stop Russian aggression and to protect the civilian population of the region. Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, told the parliamentary commission on October 27 that no such order – “restoration of constitutional order” – had been given by President Saakashvili, and Alexandre Lomaia, the secretary of the National Security Council, told the same commission on the same day that Kurashvili was not “authorized” to make such a statement, which, he said, “itself was not correct in essence.”

“It [the statement] was not agreed with anybody and I had no instruction from anybody [to make that statement],” Kurashvili told the commission on October 28.

Then Kurashvili described the environment in which he made those remarks with a journalist and said “I had just come out from the battle when a journalist approached me... I was confused.”

“The statement was not prepared; I was not ready and made an impulsive statement. If I had been prepared I would have made a different statement,” Kurashvili said and added that he had been reprimanded by the Defense Ministry for making that statement.

In his testimony Kurashvili denied rumors, which were widespread in August, of his arrest as “disinformation.”

He also said that Russian peacekeeper commander Marat Kulakhmetov’s statements made during the early stage of the escalation of the conflict in early August about his inability to control the South Ossetian militias was “a lie.”

Kurashvili was asked by the commission chairman, MP Paata Davitaia, to comment on Russian reports that their peacekeepers “were destroyed” in shelling by the Georgian side. “That is a lie,” Kurashvili responded. “I witnessed with my own eyes the Russian aviation striking their own [Russian peacekeepers’] checkpoints.”

Kurashvili also told the commission that his immediate superior was Zaza Gogava, chief of staff of the Georgian armed force. The commission will listen to Gogava’s testimony later on October 28.

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