A parliamentary commission, which studied the August war, released a voluminous report on December 18, backing the government’s official version of events that led up to the hostilities.
The report, which was read out by the commission chairman, MP Paata Davitaia, during a three-hour long live televised broadcast, also identifies number of shortcomings of the state agencies, which the commission thinks have been revealed during the August events.
In its beginning the report says that “Russia’s aggression against Georgia has not started in August, 2008” and recalls the Georgian official version of events how the military hostilities started in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in early 90s. The report then gives a very detailed timeline of events preceding the August war, as it was put by most of the senior officials during their testimonials before the commission.
The part of the report dealing with “the Georgian government’s actions during the war and revealed shortcomings” says that the authorities failure “to de-legitimize the presence of Russian peacekeepers can be considered the major shortcoming of the Georgian authorities in a pre-August period.”
State Minister for Reintegration, Temur Iakobashvili, told the commission in his testimony on October 27, that Tbilisi was considering ceasing of the Russian peacekeeping forces mandate, but did not materialize it because of Georgia’s western partners advised otherwise.
The commission said in its report that Tbilisi’s such “constructive approach” on the matter had failed to restrain the Russian Federation.
“The Russian Federation turned its ‘peacekeepers’ into full-pledge participant of the aggression against Georgia,” the commission said in the report. “On the one hand, Russia used ‘attack’ on ‘peacekeepers’ as one of the pretexts for launching the aggression and on the other hand, [attacks] were carried out on the Georgian citizens from their [peacekeepers’] headquarters [which was based on Tskhinvali].”
The report says that despite having information on increasing tensions in the South Ossetian conflict zone, the Georgian authorities have failed “to properly analyze the scales of the expected threat.”
“As it turns out from the hearings held by the commission, the Georgian authorities did not expect and were not ready for such aggression that was unleashed by Russia against Georgia in August 2008,” it says. “The Georgian authorities perceived large-scale Russian military exercises at the Georgian borders in late July and continuing attacks in the conflict zone as a traditional wave of provocations.”
In this context the report criticizes the National Security Council (NSC).
“It is obvious that the Security Council has failed to plan the actions in a timely manner, which would have been adequate to the anticipated situation and consequently, from the morning of August 7 it had to act in force majeure regime,” the report reads.
The commission said that although in overall the government was tackling various issues affectively during the war, the government members’ actions sometimes lacked proper coordination. The report says that the government was not stick to the formal procedures laid out in the special decree envisaging setting up of a governmental commission during the emergency situations.
While addressing, as the report puts it, “the weak sides” of the Georgian Foreign Ministry, the commission said that “there is no special action plan and written instructions for ambassadors on how to act in the emergency situations; the activities of ambassadors are not controlled properly either.”
“During the August war there was a case, when Georgian ambassador to the Czech Republic Lado Chipashvili simply willfully stopped performing his duties,” the report reads.
The report also accuses Georgia’s former ambassador to Russia, Erosi Kitsmarishvili – whose testimony before the commission differed from the Tbilisi’s official version of events – of “negligence” citing that in his information notes sent to the Foreign Ministry Kitsmarishvili was not informing about “anticipated threats coming from Russia.”
In respect of the Kitsmarishvili’s testimony, the commission said it has requested the General Prosecutor’s Office to carry out additional inquiry into the former ambassador’s allegations according to which there was a group of senior officials among “the Georgian leadership,” which wrongly claimed that the U.S. gave a green light to Tbilisi on launch of military hostilities in South Ossetia.
The report also says that “serious shortcomings” have been revealed in the defense system.
“It turned out based on the information submitted by the [former] chief of staff that problems persisted in the communication system,” the commission said.
It also said that the war had revealed “inadequacy” of the reserve troops system “at all levels.”
The report says that controversial remarks by senior military official, Mamuka Kurashvili, made late on August 7 about launch of operation “to restore constitutional order” in South Ossetia, was a reason of “lack of the Defense Ministry’s readiness in terms of communication strategy and absence of information release strategy during the early hours of hostilities.”
“[Kurashvili’s remarks] were then used in anti-Georgia propaganda campaign,” it added.
“The Defense Ministry has failed to carry out strategic planning properly,” the report continues. “The loss of a certain part of armament was caused by shortcomings persisting in the staffing policy of military officers. It should be noted that a certain contingent of officers had accomplished a training only several weeks before Russia’s aggression.”
“The staff of the armed forces had no plan of organized retreat prepared in advance… This fact indicates at weaknesses in planning of military operations,” the report reads.
The commission also requested the General Prosecutor’s Office to carry out further inquiry into the testimony of the head of Abkhaz government-in-exile, Malkhaz Akishbaia, in particular related to his failure to arrive in upper Kodori Gorge before the area was captured by the Russian-backed Abkhaz militias. The commission also referred the case involving evacuation of the Defense Ministry’s building in Tbilisi to the General Prosecutor’s Office.
The commission also requested the General Prosecutor’s Office to carry out inquiry into how the Energy Ministry reacted on the intelligence service’s information that Russian investors – who were not specified – were willing to invest in the Georgia’s energy sector. Intelligence chief, Gela Bezhuashvili, initially told the commission that his agency informed about it the Economy Ministry, but later the intelligence department said the Energy Ministry was informed about it not the Economy Ministry.
The commission has also called on the General Prosecutor’s Office to investigate all the cases of violation of international humanitarian law regardless of who has committed them on either side. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office it has already launched such investigation.
The commission said that in order to address the shortcomings revealed during the August war, the commission has developed number of recommendations:
- The National Security Council should revise the country’s national security concept to address the existing risks adequately;
- The National Security Council should develop a relevant system of early warning;
- The National Security Council and the government should develop and agree on a concept on a uniform center for crisis management;
- The National Security Council and the separate ministries should develop inter-agency communication and information sharing strategy;
- The National Security Council and the Government should revise the civil defense concept and develop the civil defense plan;
- The system of reserve troops should be revised;
- The Defense Ministry should carry out relevant measures for proper functioning of the communications system;
- The government should take every measure to restore air defense system; the results should regularly be reported to the parliamentary Group of Confidence;
- Instructions for the activities of diplomats during the emergency situations should be elaborated;
- Special attention should be paid to the attraction of professionals to the diplomatic service;
- The respective parliamentary committees should get involved in monitoring of the implementation of these recommendations;
- Problems mentioned above raise the necessity for staff changes at the relevant agencies, including among the political and military officials.