“Serious incident”, involving Georgian troops’ clash with an armed group close to the Russian border, poses no threat to Georgia’s security and cannot be used by Russia as a pretext for “aggression” against Georgia, Giga Bokeria, Secretary of Georgian National Security Council (NSC), said late on Wednesday.
He said in an interview with Rustavi 2 TV station, that Tbilisi informed Moscow about Georgia’s ongoing operation in the Kakheti region, close to the Dagestan section of the Georgian-Russian border via the Swiss embassy. The two countries have no diplomatic relations since the August, 2008 war and communicate mainly through Swiss diplomats.
“This concrete situation cannot serve as a pretext for carrying out aggression,” Bokeria said when asked if he thought that Russia would try to use the incident for targeting Georgia.
He said that there was “no threat whatsoever to the sovereignty and security” of Georgia from this particular incident in which three Georgian servicemen and eleven members of the unspecified armed group were killed during a clash on August 29.
Bokeria said in the interview, which was aired live at about 9:20pm local time on Wednesday, that the remaining members of the armed group, reportedly six people, were “localized” by the Georgian law enforcement officers and the operation against them was still ongoing.
He stopped short of saying directly that the armed group infiltrated from Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, but said “it is obvious” that the incident and presence of this armed group on the Georgian territory was linked to recent developments in neighboring Dagestan, involving frequent attacks of Islamist militants against security officials. On August 28 an influential Islamic cleric was killed by a suicide bomber in Dagestan.
“At this point we cannot confirm anything and we are not going to claim anything… But it is obvious that these developments are linked. The grave situation which is now in Dagestan is obviously linked to this [incident in Georgia]. At this point I cannot say more than that,” Bokeria said.
A spokesman for Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Vadim Shibayev, told RIA Novosti news agency that there were no violation of Georgian-Russian border and allegations that suspected militants crossed into Georgia from Russia were “provocative”.
Bokeria said that against the background of tensions in Dagestan, Russian FSB’s denial of border violation was “not serious”.