The Georgian Interior Ministry is accusing Russian intelligence of being behind an explosion near the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi last September, which Senator Mark Kirk warns “would constitute the most serious crisis in U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.” Russia was also tied to a dozen other bomb plots last year. Russia has not given up its goal of destabilizing and dominating the U.S. ally.
Georgia has charged Major Yevgeny Borisov, an officer in the Russian GRU military-intelligence service, of orchestrating at least a dozen bomb plots last year. This includes a September 22 explosion about 100 yards from the U.S. embassy. Senator Mark Kirk sounded persuaded by the evidence, saying “These are extraordinarily specific and detailed allegations by the government of Georgia.”
Georgia found that the bombing suspects would call a GRU operative named Mukhran Tskhadaia in Abkhazia after every detonation, who is the deputy to Borisov. The Russians seized Abkhazia from Georgia in 2008 and maintain a military presence there. The Georgian government also says it discovered that photographers for the Georgian president and foreign minister were found to be GRU spies.
Russia has waged asymmetrical warfare against Georgia for years. In 2007, the U.S. ambassador to Georgia authored a memo accusing Russia of being behind a car bombing in 2004, sabotaging a pipeline, and using a helicopter gunship to attack Georgia in 2007. The covert war heated up before the 2008 war, with Russia sponsoring assassinations, missile attacks, bombing a cop car, and arming proxies in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including with Grad missiles. Ambassador Tefft described Russia’s support for separatists as “direct, if at times thinly veiled.” The document also revealed that many South Ossetian government officials were Russian agents, and that Russia bankrolled the police and other government employees.
The Russians also set the stage for war by giving passports to the population of South Ossetia. This made them Russian citizens, so that when fighting later broke out, Russia would have a pretext to invade. Less than a month before the August 2008 war began, Russia’s 58th Army, which would later invade Georgia, participated in a huge exercise in the Caucasus. Intercepted telecommunications show that a Russian armored regiment entered South Ossetia almost 24 hours before the Georgian military began its offensive against the capital, which the Russians claim triggered their involvement. Other Wikileaks files support Georgia’s account that the offensive was retaliation for artillery attacks by separatists.
The Russian government then declared that South Ossetia would belong to “one, unified Russian state.” A Russian lieutenant that was part of the invasion said, “It will be Russia.” He then made the telling statement, “And Georgia used to be Russian, too.” Russia then expanded the war into Abkhazia, and announced plans to build bases in the two territories for peacekeeping forces. Russia now recognizes them as independent countries, though very few other countries do.
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