You to Me, Me to You

Russia will barter Georgian killers for Chechen gunmen

“Shevardnadze imagines him being president of a superpower, while in fact he does not have even a banana republic under him,” said once first Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Since the time Eduard Shevardnadze occupied the presidential chair, much water has flowed under the bridges. While annihilating at first his rivals, then his brothers-in-arm who helped him to occupy his post, he was loyal to Russia. Though, everything changed as the White Fox (the Shevardnadze nickname) understood he had not kept power. Then, accusations and menaces started to resound, addressed to the neighbour: I can surrender the country to Turks, or I can surrender it to Russia, or Al-Qaida militants can hide themselves in my country, or Russia prepares invasion of Georgia etc.

Shevardnadze tries to run before the locomotive, while teasing Russia, when the West wants to make Russia its ally. He even contradicts with the biggest international institutions (like when he wanted to redistribute the USSR property and debts, spite the World Bank opinion). He insists on the Russian peace-keepers withdrawal from Georgia and demands compensation for Georgian military objects use. He wants Georgia to become a NATO member to defend from Russia’s “empire ambitions,” while at the same time he neglects the fact that international terrorism flourishes in Georgian territory. He does not take into account this menace, however it is more real than the ephemeral danger as if originating from Russia. 

Hot and cold points in Russian-Georgian relationship are usual things. Traditionally, a bilateral scandal catalyst is  Chechnya, or Chechen militants who feel well in Georgia. Pankisi Gorge (the militant base) is a kind of pirate Tortuga.

Latest great scandal burst out August this year. A group of 13 militants was detained by Russian frontier guards on Russian-Georgian border August 4, 2002. Following the Russia demand, the four arrested were extradited October 4, 2002. Two months later, Georgian Public Prosecutor General Office take a decision to extradite three more Chechens – they are still in Georgia. Two of the detained militants turned out to be Georgian citizens and should be tried in Georgia. While the other militants extradition was postponed by Georgian side from different reasons. It became known Wednesday the detained Chechens asked for political asylum in Georgia. According to the Chechens lawyer, the convicts are afraid of being killed in case they are extradited to Russia.
In the meanwhile, Georgian Security Council deputy secretary on human rights, Rusudan Beridze reported the detained Chechens really had submitted a petition to President Eduard Shevardnadze. Though, that is Georgian Ministry on Refugees which occupies itself with the questions of political asylum. In the meanwhile, the Ministry does not intend to consider the petition if the three Chechens. The Ministry spokesman noticed “political asylum is not as a rule given to convicts.”

This time Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze decided not to interfere in the situation, while making his subordinates responsible. And if so, the detained Chechens will most likely be extradited to Russia. At least pawns are created to be sacrificed.

P.S. Today, information was received from Chechnya, which for sure will glad Eduard Shevardnadze. Two participants of the assault against Shevardnadze were detained. The Chechen citizens Vepkhvia Durglishvili and Soso Toria, arrested in Gudermes District of Chechnya are accused of committing a group terrorist attack on the Eduard Shevardnadze cortege February 9, 1998. In the terrorist act, two security guards and one terrorist were killed. At the moment, the Internal Ministry official reported, documents were being prepared for the terrorist extradition to Georgia. And it would be logical to organize a barter bargain: to exchange the Chechens for the Georgians.

Dmitry Litvinovich

Translated by Vera Solovieva

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Author`s name Olga Savka