Hidden sides of the request to open Upper Larsi access control point
16/11/2009 17:55
Gogi Maisuradze
"The club of experts", expert

Despite the fact that yet another stir-up ordered by powerful Russian politicians and security services and made by Russian media with order of about Pankisi Gorge did not have desirable effects for them one thing became clear to all that by that Russians sent us a certain message and once again revealed their desire unashamedly. The above was followed by a series of abduction of our citizens (among them children) by the separatist regime in Tskhinvali and representatives of Russian military contingent stationed there. After all this an issue of opening of Upper Larsi border access control point in the Kazbegi district on the Russia-Georgian border entered the agenda. Armenians, Ossetians and even Russians are desperately interested in its opening. But yet nobody knows what decision Georgian side will make ultimately.

At first sight, both Russian and Georgian sides have done a lot to make access control point equipped with modern equipment and special features and with proper infrastructure. Everything was properly done so that no one could cross the border without border service notice. But due to certain reasons opening of the border can be suspended for certain amount of time or Georgian side might decide against it altogether. The Club of Experts believes that among other less known circumstances the problems of Truso and Gudisi Gorges as well as problem of Kobi Hollow artificially created by Ossetian extremists can become a reason for such abstention. Some time ago we touched upon this issue in one of our articles but after continuing our supervision of events related to this problem we have gathered new and, as we think, very important materials.

In order to show more clearly Russo-Ossetian mutual interest in the abovementioned territories below comes a piece of "Kokoiti told Medvedev about annexed lands", an article by Murad Gabaraev, journalist of the magazine Vestnik Kavkaza that is published in the North Ossetia. The article is about an interview with G. Salbiev, head of the public movement Dariali that was formed in the North Ossetia. Salbiev mentioned in the interview: "residents of 33 Ossetian villages of Kobi Hollow and Gorges of Truso and Gudisi in the Kazbegi district of Georgia joined public movement Dariali. Their aim was to "return to South Ossetia lands that had been taken away in 1921 by Georgian Bolsheviks and to make Georgians stop robbing Ossetian villages". The journalist asked as to when these problems for Ossetian villages in the Kazbegi district had started. Salbiev responded that all this started around 20 years ago and as after the events of August 2008 they could not solve these problems with Georgian authorities therefore thy were ready to work on this with South Ossetian authorities. He also mentioned that they "couldn't survive without Ossetia"; "Geography of the region itself strives towards Russia"; that for that moment they were not refugees or emigrants but they had lost their property "even if they open the border now we will still be guests in our houses" and so on.

He also told the journalist that they met with Kokoiti and told him that "organization that has 1500 members asked for South Ossetian citizenship and Kokoiti agreed to that. The latter even informed Russian authorities about that ... Salbiev is certain that ultimate result will be positive. Now a document about double Russian and South Ossetian citizenship is in the preparation process...

Even before that an article titled "Issue of Kazbegi" was published in the newspaper "Puls Osssetii". Here is a piece of this article: "Gorges of Truso and Gudisi as well as Kobi Hollow that are now in the Kazbegi district so are the part of Georgia and are 54 km away from Vladikavkaz is a territory of North Ossetia that Stalin unlawfully added to Georgia.... Russia should not lose this territory that was unlawfully included in Georgia and that has a big geopolitical importance" – noted the author. If we take into account that this newspaper belongs to Arsen Fadzaev, a member of the Russian State Duma it becomes clear whose interests are voiced by our North and so-called South Ossetian opponents. Notwithstanding the fact that there are certain opposition and inconsistencies in their claims it can be easily seen that the above views do not belong to them.

One thing is clear that propaganda machine of Russian security services has been long in operation and it is orientated in the direction to form/create a stereotype in the society that "these are Ossetian territories".

Our society has already had a bitter experience of this in Abkhazia where Russian officials have been doing their best to divide Georgian society and to detach Abkhazians- related ethnos - from them.

In these circumstances an issue of opening of Upper Larsi access control point on the Russo-Georgian border section that is on the agenda and interested parties are waiting for the decision indeed deserves a special attention from Georgian society. Stability of the situation in Kazbegi district largely depends on how this issue will be resolved.

Now there are 18 villages with just 60 residents in them in Truso Gorge in Kazbegi district. Only 10 and 2 families live in villages of Kobi and Almaskhani respectively. There are only 4-5 residents in each of the rest of villages. For many years Ossetians and Georgians as well as mixed Georgian-Ossetian families lived peacefully alongside each other. They all say that in 90s of the last century nobody harassed or oppressed by ethnicity. Before the Russo-Georgian border closure North Ossetian citizens used to come to these villages and used to use their pastures for summer pastures for their sheep. It would be fair to note that many of them used to cut down woods and set up gardens to grow vegetables. They used to build temporary lodgings there. In the Soviet period Georgian authorities considered this as usual, ordinary thing and coming out of famous Georgian hospitality not only did not prevent Ossetians from coming from the North Caucasus but never interfered with them and not even made them pay any fees. At the approach of winter Ossetians who had their sheep pasturing in Trusso and other gorges used to go back through Kazbegi loaded with gathered goods and their sheep. Nobody ever used any violence against them. Coming from this the statement of G. Salbiev, the head of North Ossetia-based so-called public movement Dariali is a complete absurd. No 1500 Ossetians ever lived in the abovementioned region.

If we take into consideration those colourful methods actively used by our unmasked Northern neighbours for detaching integral part of Georgia - Abkhazia from its motherland (such as entirely unjustifiable, artificial increase of numbers of Russians and Armenians and maximum support for their quick adaptation in Abkhazia..) we have enough ground to suppose that Ossetian strive towards Georgia, among others to the Kazbegi district, was not only caused by their desire to improve their economic conditions... It is now obvious we had been dealing with a slow action Russo-Ossetian mines and we were unable to uncover and defuse this in time due to our naivety...

Despite the fact that Georgian side fully complied with 6 clause ceasefire agreement that was signed on the 12th of August 2008 brokered by the French President the separatists not only have not ceased provocations but they are becoming more and more aggressive that are confirmed by latest incidents. Even Russian military expert Pavel Felgengauer did not rule out Russia's preparation for a new aggression against Georgia.

As it became known to us detention of 16 Georgians in a village of Nagomevi in the Akhalgori district on the 25th of October was organized by FSB worker Iuri N. who was asked to do so by Akhalgori administration officials. The latters themselves had received instructions from the government of Tskhinvali regime...Russian border guards deployed in the same district had been trying to get information from local population about paths or roads leading from Akhalgori district to Truso gorge. They used to put gathered information on the military map.

Taking into account all the above as well as those frequent fly-ins of spying drones from Tskhinvali region into the Georgian-controlled territories we can assume that the separatist regime by order of Russian security services will continue to set up provocations for our country.

As to their possible provocations in Truso Gorge now they are unlikely to happen due to difficult climate conditions at this time of the year but the same cannot be said for the beginning of next spring.

All this will depend on conditions that the Georgian side will offer during the process of possible negotiations on opening of Upper Larsi border access control point. We think that during the negotiation process between the sides the issue of easy access system of border crossing for residents of Kazbegi district and citizens of the Russian Federation, namely those of the North Ossetia will be put on the agenda. Residents of both regions are interested in this. They have their reasons and motivation for this such as improvement of economic conditions, interaction with close relatives and so on. But if we take into account that crossing of residents of Kazbegi over to Vladikavkaz will be followed by a flow of activists of so-called public movement Dariali from Vladikavkaz armed with double citizenship (Russian and so-called South Ossetian) and their ungrounded and radical demands...

What Russia will do in such circumstances is not hard to imagine. We believe that Georgian side will take into account the abovementioned along with no less important circumstances and will take the most rational decision based on interests of our country.

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