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Saakashvili Reshuffles Leadership of Armed Forces, Calls for Reserve Army Buildup
/ 26 Aug.'04 / 15:29
Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia

Ex-Chief of Staff says the army units in South
Ossetia succeeded while fulfilling mission.
In the wake of the Georgian troops’ pullback from breakaway South Ossetia, Georgian President reshuffled leadership of the armed forces, as well as announced that Georgia should have “tens of thousands of army reservists” ready to repel foreign aggression. Meanwhile, Russia expressed concerns over the Georgian authorities’ “military rhetoric” and denounced it as “irresponsible.”

President Saakashvili sacked Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Givi Iukuridze on August 25 and replaced him with western-educated Maj. Vakhtang Kapanadze, who previously served as Iukuridze’s deputy, explaining move with the desire to build “a new structure, which will meet the NATO standards.”

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said on August 25, that President Saakashvili was “dissatisfied with the work of Givi Iukuridze.” “We expect the General Staff of the Armed Forces to be more active in the process of building armed forces,” he added.

“The new leadership of the General Staff of the Armed Forces will be a team of western-educated co-thinkers,” Georgian Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze told reporters.

Maj. Vakhtang Kapanadze, 44, who became a new Chief of Staff, is a graduate of the United States Army War College, Ukraine military academy and George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Germany. His two deputies - Col. Levan Nikoleishvili and Col Davit Nairashvili both are graduates of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Kansas and the NATO Defense College.

“Reformation of the General Staff and strengthening of the armed forces will be our main goal,” Maj. Kapanadze told reporters after taking over the new position.

However, the Georgian media speculates that decision to dismiss Iukuridze comes after analysis of the reasons for the military casualties in South Ossetia in August. Georgian State Minister Goga Khaindrava, who is in charge of the conflict resolution issues, is the only official who has hinted that the developments in South Ossetia were the reason of Iukuridze’s dismissal.

“Georgia lost 16 soldiers in last couple of weeks [during the clashes with the South Ossetian militias]; this is inadmissible,” Goga Khaindrava told Tbilisi-based Imedi radio station on August 25.

Givi Iukuridze, 49, a graduate of the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces in Moscow, was appointed as Georgia’s military attaché to Russia. Iukuridze says he has done “quite enough” while serving as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. He also says that the army units in South Ossetia succeeded while fulfilling mission.

“We were ordered to protect by-pass roads [linking the Georgian-controlled territories with the Georgian enclave in the north of South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali], which was under the attack [of the South Ossetian militias]. We deployed troops there and we accomplished mission and did not allow anyone to take over [by-pass roads]. By the way, the Defense Minister [Giorgi Baramidze] was in charge of this operation,” Givi Iukuridze told RFE/RL Georgian service, after he was dismissed on August 25.

Meanwhile, President Saakashvili said on August 25, that Georgia will have a new system of reserve forces. On August 26 he also spoke about this issue and said, “Georgia should have tens of thousands of army reservists.”

He said, while speaking in the western Georgian sea resort of Grigoleti on August 26, that special reservist centers will be set up in “every region and district in Georgia.”

“Each of the reservists will be registered; the state will provide each of them with the uniforms and arms, which will be stored in these centers and used by the army reservists only in case of necessity. We do not need these reservists only in case of war. They might contribute in case of natural disasters and catastrophes,” Mikheil Saakashvili said.

He also added that setting up of an operational army reserve system “does not mean that Georgia prepares for war.” “But our enemy should know that apart of the Georgia’s regular armed forces tens of thousands of reservists will be ready to repel aggression,” Mikheil Saakashvili said.

“Women and girls might also be involved in the process of building army reserve forces, like it is in Israel,” he added.

The western media reported on August 24 Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s quotations from the interview published by the French newspaper Liberation, saying that Georgia is “very close to a war” with Russia. On the same day, senior Georgian MP Givi Targamadze, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security accused Russia of possible “direct military intervention” in the South Ossetian conflict against Georgia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the Georgian officials’ recent statements as “irresponsible.” In a statement issued on August 25, the Russian Foreign Ministry said “after the failed military adventure” in breakaway South Ossetia, Georgia started “to look for an inexistent ‘foreign enemy’… with hints and accusations aimed at ‘the northern neighbor’ - supposedly the source of all problems and conflicts in Georgia.”

“Military rhetoric prevails in the statements made by the officials in Tbilisi… these statements are not even worth of commenting because of their absurdity,” the Russian Foreign Ministry statement reads.

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