What happened in Lapankuri looks more like a serious misunderstanding
“InterPressNews” interviewed Pavel Felgengauer, Russian military analyst.
Mr. Pavel, how would you assess the information related to the operation in Lopota Gorge carried out by the Georgian security forces?
-I have the impression that this clash was accidental from both sides. I do not have any reasons yet to connect what happened with the conspiracy theories. However, I do not rule out that it was possible to avoid a confrontation that did not happen this time. It is known that the Georgian military does not fight against the Chechens. What happened in Lapankuri looks more like a serious misunderstanding. It may not be so, but we have no reasons for assuming that this incident will lead to serious changes. What happened will not result in changes both in the Georgian and Russian politics, but anything is possible.
What do you mean? Can you define it more exactly?
-I mean the following: this sad story shows that Georgia and Russia should cooperate on security issues in the highly dangerous Caucasian region. Unfortunately, we have no reasons for assuming that the Georgian and the Russian law enforcement agencies are coordinating security issues in any way. I think that Georgia and Russia should cooperate on these issues, and I hope that through the course of time it will happen. Long-term security issues in the Caucasus are of common interest to Russia and Georgia. I understand that there is an abnormal situation between the two countries, and it will be for some time so, but it may not be so forever and the both parties will realize it sooner or later.
There are citizens of Georgia among those killed. It still remains unclear what purpose this armed group had as its objective. By the way, it is also unclear how this group found itself in the forest of Lapankuri. What is your opinion?
-At the place, where the clash occurred there are no important strategic units, which could have been attacked. I still think that both sides did not want a confrontation with each other and what happened looks more like an accident.
As it turned out, Akhmed Zakayev’s former guard, Doshuev was among thoes killed. In your opinion, how did he get there and what version do you have regarding this fact?
-I have no idea and that’s why it’s difficult for me to answer.
Zakayev commented the following on this issue: “The presence of Dushaev in Georgia causes astonishment”. London-based Chechen government in exile created a special commission to study the incident and is ready to cooperate with the Georgian law enforcement bodies. Zakayev said that if the Georgian law enforcement bodies do not cooperate with the commission, they have enough possibilities in Georgia to find out what really happened. In your opinion, what might Zakayev's statement mean?
-Akhmed Zakayev's statement indicates that what happened is an unpleasant and accidental tragedy. North Caucasus militants, who are confronted with Russia, are not interested in the confrontation with Georgia.
Can we suppose that this statement or the one expressed by the Caucasus Emirate will complicate the situation?
-The Caucasus Emirate has a cell structure, and it is not excluded that they will decide to commit acts of sabotage or murders in Georgia. But, I'm not sure that they will make such a decision. But, given that they do not always make wise decisions, and they are unpredictable, nothing should be excluded. However, they also should understand that by such statements they make enemies and bring together Georgia and Russia.
Is it a reasonable assumption that what happened in Georgia is related to another recruit to support the Syrian opposition and this group was about to leave for Syria?
-If they wanted to go to Syria, it is not clear what they wanted in the Dagestan section of the Russian-Georgian border. It’s difficult to get to Syria from there. Assuming that they were planning to go to Syria, they could fly to Tehran from Tbilisi, or travel by car from Georgia to Turkey and then to Syria. Their itinerary from Georgia to Syria would depend on whose side they were going to fight. If they wanted to fight in Syria on the side of the opposition, it was sufficient to get to Turkey; if they were Assad supporters, they must have gone to Iran and not the village of Lapankuri. They would not have to carry arms, because the Syrian government and the opposition have a lot of arms.
Can we assume that the Georgian and the Russian law enforcement agencies cooperated with each other at some level?
-Unfortunately, we do not see it yet. The fact that during this operation there was no coordination between the two countries' law enforcement agencies is not good at all.
According to British expert Thomas de Waal, the official Moscow keeps silence because it “does not want to thank the Georgian government”. How well-grounded is such a claim?
-I agree. It is not a groundless assumption. Russia and Georgia are not on friendly terms with each other, but in fact they turn out to be allies. I have already discussed it earlier. In principle, Georgia and Russia have common interests in the security issues in the Caucasus and they should cooperate with each other. Therefore, it is necessary to solve the problems of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia and Russia are not only neighbors, but they also can be good neighbors. They have common interests and common problems.
The territorial limitation of Russia's military exercises “Caucasus-2012” was perceived by many people as a result of a successful operation carried out by the Georgian security forces. Do you think the same way?
-I have read the reports of the news agencies. It is said that “Russia does not wish to frighten Georgia”. As far as I know, practically nothing has been changed. “Caucasus-2012” envisages command training. In addition, tactical exercises are taking place there, where it was planned. In my opinion, the Russian side’s statement is very unusual and looks frightening. I do not know which is greater in this statement: the desire not to frighten Georgia or to misinform it.
In your opinion, if after presidential elections in the United States the situation in Syria becomes worse, how great is the probability that Russia will become more active in the South Caucasus?
-The situation in the South Caucasus is quite complicated because of the Karabakh conflict. The situation in Georgia is also complicated because of the upcoming elections. The armed forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia have practically been put on a war footing. To what result the current situation will lead us will be found out before the winter. As for Syria and Russia’s stance in the case of the further aggravation of the situation, if a security zones will be established on the territory of Syria, Turkey and the USA are trying to reach agreement in secret and the West will support them, then it will pose a threat to regional security. Almost every day official Tehran says it will not allow the fall of Assad's regime. The creation of security zones in Syria will lead to an inevitable war. This situation will reflect on the Caucasus and it is becoming increasingly evident.