- A source from Russian MoD rejected Tbilisi’s claims as 'fairy tales'
Georgia's evidence, through which Tbilisi claims that an Abkhazia-based Russian army officer was behind series of explosions and one failed blast attempt in recent few months, include, among others, an inquiry made by Russian forces in Abkhazia via hotline asking EU Monitoring Mission about explosion, which never happened.
The Georgian police arrested on December 4 a group of six people, four man and two women, in connection to five explosions in Tbilisi in a period between September and November. At least one arrested suspect, according to the police, is linked to a failed explosion on a railway bridge in western region of Samegrelo in early October. Georgia claimed that the group was acting under the instruction of a Russian military officer, Yevgeny Borisov, serving in the Russian troops in Abkhazia. Tbilisi, however, stopped short of directly accusing the Russian leadership of being behind the blasts and offered Moscow to cooperate in investigation.
In a videotaped confession, released by the Interior Ministry, one of the key suspects, Gogita Arkania, says that he and one of his accomplices, Merab Kolbaia (he is now wanted by the Georgian police, which say that Kolbaia is hiding in Gali district of Abkhazia), placed an explosive on a railway bridge at the Chaladidi village of Khobi district on October 2.
But the explosive failed to detonate and, according to Arkania’s video testimony, Kolbaia had to lie to his handler, Russian officer, Yevgeny Borisov, that the bomb went off, but it was not reported by the Georgian media because the authorities imposed media blackout on the story, fearing that it could have overshadowed a visit of NATO Secretary General to Tbilisi a previous day on October 1.
The Interior Ministry also made public an e-mail received from EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) informing the ministry that on October 3 it was contacted via hotline by Lieut. Col. Aleksander Berchenko from the Russian forces stationed in breakaway Abkhazia asking about alleged train accident, which occurred on the Senaki-Poti section of the railway causing human casualties. A Russian contact on hotline, according to this e-mail, was citing information received from persons who were commuting across the administrative border. He also requested to pass on the Georgia side that the Russian side was ready to offer assistance. EUMM has confirmed to Civil.ge that it had received such inquiry.
Shota Utiashvili, head of the Georgian Interior Ministry’s information and analytical department, told Civil.ge on December 8, that the only way for the Russian army officer, Yevgeny Borisov, to obtain credible information about whether the explosion occurred or not was via hotline with EUMM. Utiashvili claims that since the explosion in fact never occurred, it seemed that those making inquiry to EUMM apparently knew in advance that the blast was intended.
The Georgian Interior Ministry also said that key suspects communicated with their Russian handler before and after every explosion in person or by phone, making calls on a mobile phone number registered with the Russian Defense Ministry.
Although Russia made no official public statement about the allegations, the Russian daily, Kommersant, reported on December 8 quoting unnamed source from the Russian Ministry of Defense, saying that it was Tbilisi’s “yet another poorly planned and poorly staged provocation.”
“The Georgian leadership is acting very clumsily. More creativity is needed, than just these fairy tales about mobile phone numbers registered with the Russian Ministry of Defense,” the source was quoted.
The Kommersant also reported, that a source from the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested Georgia’s this recent allegation was aimed to coincide with EU-Russia high-level summit in Brussels on December 7.
When Georgia announced in early November about uncovering of an alleged Russian military intelligence’s spy network in Georgia, Moscow said it a provocation, which aimed at attracting international attention in lead up to NATO Lisbon and OSCE Astana summits.
Meanwhile, Shalva Natelashvili, leader of opposition Labor Party, whose party’s office was damaged in one of the explosions in Tbilisi in November, said that he “declares distrust” to the version announced by the Georgian authorities and blamed President Saakashvili of masterminding the blasts. A woman was killed in explosion outside the Labor Party office in Tbilisi overnight on November 28.