Russian-Georgian relations are once again at a freezing point. As before, this was initiated by Georgia, the parliament to be more precise. Yesterday PRAVDA.Ru already touched upon the cause of today’s conflict. It was logically concluded that presidents of both countries, Russia and Georgia should say their opinions of the situation. Eduard Shevardnadze has already expressed his point of view, rather cautiously by the way, it is turn of Vladimir Putin now.
The Russian president said today, the situation on the Russian-Georgian border is alarming, but lack of co-operation and misunderstanding between partners from both countries are even more disturbing. Vladimir Putin said: “Quite recently Georgia persuaded us that no terrorists were present in the country. Then, the fact of terrorists’ presence in the country was admitted. Next, Georgia said those were good people with higher education, not terrorists. As it turned out later, the “highly educated” people were engaged in drug traffic, trade in arms, kidnapping and assassinations.” The Russian president reminded that those very people brought UN mission helicopters down, and UN representatives were killed at that. “They, the so-called highly-educated people, exacerbated the situation in Abkhazia and attempted to penetrate in Russia. They deliver arms to Chechnya,” the Russian president added. Vladimir Putin hopes that activities of the Georgian government directed against terrorism “are not just a show but the intention to get rid of terrorists on the Georgian territory.” The Russian president stressed that Russia was ready to co-operate with Georgia in settlement of the problem.
The speech is good on the whole, but it is no answer to the question who bombed Georgian villages, if some bombing did take place. To tell the truth, nobody expected Vladimir Putin to pronounce some answers at all. As a real diplomat, Vladimir Putin highlighted the key points correctly: he criticized the Georgian government for protection of some odious personalities like Ruslan Gelayev. Although the Georgian government admitted it openly, it regrets this fact now. After that, nobody will ever recall some mythical bombing, but if someone does, the Kremlin is ready to provide a strong argument concerning this fact. The argument was published in today’s issue of the Rossiiskaya Gazeta (Russian Newspaper), which informed with reference to a competent source in the Georgian Defense Ministry, the bombing at the Pankisi Gorge executed by a plane of the Georgian air forces by a direct order from the Georgian government. That was a battleplane with number 15 on board. However, right before the flight, number 32, belonging to the Russian air forces was painted over the number 15. Stars and Russia’s flag were marked on the fuselage, lieutenant of the Georgian air forces Georgy Rusteli piloted the plane. The pilot committed a mistake when he set data in the aiming system, that is why local farmers not Ruslan Gelayev’s gang became the target.
After the bombing, the plane was delivered to the Tbilisi aviation enterprise TbilAviastroitel, and it is currently there. Specialists discovered a technical failure in the plane, a turbine burnout. They are working on the fault now and at the same time, eliminating the marks revealing belonging of the plane to the Russian air fleet.
The newspaper also reports, Georgia’s fleet holds seven Su-25 warplanes. One of them is a new Su-25 KM model developed together with Elbit Maarahot specializing in modernization of Russian warplanes for the third countries. The Su-25 KM is fitted out with new airborne equipment and aircraft complex that allow it to execute maneuvers even at night. The last fact is really very significant. Specialists from the Sukhoi aircraft design bureau say that Russia’s Su-25 planes based in Mozdok couldn’t bomb the Pankisi Gorge at 5:20 a.m. as they have no location equipment to execute maneuvers at night. Moreover, it would be very difficult for Russia’s Su-25 to carry out such operations at night, which is even harder in the mountains where radio positioning systems and radio compass are ineffective.
It is difficult to say now whether the publication in the Rossiskaya Gazeta is true or not, or just a mere misinformation designed to ward the threat off Russia. In any case, this fact attaches more importance to today’s speech of President Putin. Georgia certainly denies its guilt. Official from the Georgian Embassy to Moscow Teimuraz Gamtzemlidze said in an interview to RIA Novosti, there were no lieutenants with the name of Rusteli, name of the pilot who is said to be at the controls of the Su-25 KM, in the Georgian air forces.