Three people, a local passer-by, a policeman and a Russian citizen, were wounded in a shootout in Georgia’s Black Sea town of Batumi late on Friday night.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Saturday evening that the Russian citizen, identified by the police as Yusuf Lakayev, opened fire after policemen approached him and his two companions, both Georgian citizens, to check his identification documents. The Interior Ministry said that after he opened fire, Lakayev wounded one of the police officers and a passer-by. It said that Lakayev was wounded after the police opened fire in response. Injuries are not life-threatening, according to the police. The Interior Ministry also said that Lakayev entered into Georgia “illegally”.
Two Georgian citizens, who were accompanying the Russian citizen, were identified as Piruz Tsulukidze and Temur Bakhuntaradze.
Tsulukidze is a member of Georgia’s Greco-Roman wrestling junior team and Temur Bakhuntaridze is his coach.
The Interior Ministry said that according to information available to its anti-terrorism center, Tsulukidze and Bakhuntaradze, who have been arrested, were intending to provide assistance to Lakayev to “illegally” enter into Turkey from Georgia.
Last month Piruz Tsulukidze, who resides in Batumi, said that he was not able to travel to Bulgaria to participate in a tournament after he was stopped in the Tbilisi airport on August 10 and barred by law enforcement officers from leaving the country; he said he was told that he was blocked to travel abroad because of having links with “undesired” persons and with “Wahhabists”. Tsulukidze, who is a Muslim, also said that he was subjected to religious discrimination. Few days before the September 12 shooting in Batumi and his arrest, Bakhuntaradze, a wrestling coach and religious mentor of Tsulukidze, told ick.ge news website that he was twice summoned by the security officers in Batumi and warned to stop religious preaching among his wrestlers. “They were telling me that we are followers of Wahhabism,” Bakhuntaradze said.
There have been reports in the Georgian media that the Russian citizen Yusuf Lakayev, wounded in the Batumi shooting, is from Chechnya.
A person with the same name and with the same year of birth with the place of birth in Chechnya is in the list of individuals, which, the Russian security agencies, claim are suspected of having links with “extremism” or “terrorism”.
The February 5, 2013 decision by Russia’s operations headquarters responsible for providing security during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games on defining maritime borders of a special zone where “enhanced measures of security” should be applied during the Olympics, is enclosed with a list of 88 persons whom the Russian security agencies claim are “involved in extremist activity or terrorism”; one of the names in the list is Yusuf Lakayev with August 3, 1988 indicated as the date of birth. It was not possible at the time of writing this report to verify if this man in the list is the same person who was wounded in the Batumi shooting on September 12. The Interior Ministry has declined a request to provide more details about the Russian citizen, wounded in the Batumi shooting, other than his name – Yusuf Lakayev, and year of his birth – 1988.