Here is an interview that president of the Club of Experts, former security minister of Abkhazia General Levan Kiknadze gave to Akhali Sitkva newspaper.
Mister Kiknadze, you were successful in Abkhazia. And even now you have a significant respect there. How is this happening?
Despite the fact that your assessment is very pleasant I cannot call my work in Abkhazia successful. Since I would have been successful if were we having this interview in Sukhumi. Although I must note that Abkhazian security services were doing their best to prevent confrontation between Georgians and Abkhazians from turning into armed actions. We were not able to do this for reasons independent from us. And the Club of Experts is trying to explain these reasons in the series of articles "Abkhazian separatism was born in the labyrinths of the KGB". I should also mention that workers for the security services paid their soldierly duties. We were the last ones to leave Sukhumi and our three officers Avtandil Dekanoidze, Badri Bagaturia and Koba Mirzashvili remained loyal to national hero of Georgia Zhiuli Shartava and heroically died together with him for their country.
How acceptable is cooperation with security services? Are we protecting the order, in general?
State security is a condition when supreme national interests are protected – national interests that include political, economic, military, social, ecological, demographic and other aspects, spiritual and intellectual values of the nation, rights and freedoms of people. Provision of the state security is one of the main functions of the state, essence of which is creation of effective system of common state measures, protection of sovereignty of the country, of territorial integrity, of public, political and economic system of government that is based on the constitution, from any violation. Practice of developed countries suggests that all major government institutions are engaged in the united system of provision of states security. Therefore cooperation with security services is not only acceptable but it is necessary. Of course, by cooperation I do not mean vicious methods of the Soviet KGB.
We believe that Georgia's geopolitical situation is a driving force. Russia wants not being friends with us but our incorporation in the USSR. What is a way-out, in your opinion?!
Since the day Georgia declared independence the Kremlin started to use all means at hand for getting Georgian back under its influence. Conflicts that were instigated by them and armed confrontation in Abkhazia fitted well in the plans of Russian security services. After Putin's coming into power campaign against the Georgian statehood became even more active. Despite this Georgia was more and more leaning towards the west. Annoyed Russia was trying in every way to not let go of leverage of influence over Georgia, most important of which were the conflict regions. Given that, in any moment of the time Russian actions that were connected to the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts served the only goal not to allow resolution of the conflict and to prepare ground for annexation of the conflict territories which was eventually carried out in August 2008. It is true that we were defeated in an uneven fight but, I think, that small Georgia is teaching "great" Russia lessons in fighting for independence. I firmly believe that we must stand firm and not allow mistakes of the twenties of the last century and once and for all confirm that we are a freedom-loving nation and will fight to defend in till the end.
Georgia always had a problem of dividing into regions...
Indeed, I agree. But this problem arises not only in Georgia but in every country during various periods of the history. Division into regions in Georgia is mainly due to its geopolitical situation and it was managed to be exploited by security services of foreign countries that were interested in gaining influence over Georgia. Clear examples of this are Abkhazian and Ossetian separatism that were used first by Soviet and later Russian security services. One of the main supporters of this idea of division of Georgia into regions is English "Scholar" of Georgian language George B. Hewitt who constantly comes out with his anti-Georgian escapades. During one of his visits to Abkhazia in an interview with Mingrelian-Russian-Abkhazian newspaper "Gal" that is published in Gali by the separatist regime he maintains that Mingrelian is a separate language and it deserves it own status. Whoever is in charge of the attempt to divide Georgian into regions and to start another wave of separatism is doomed for failure as today there is no ground for this in Georgia.
What caused aggressive politics of Russia towards Georgia in the 90s?
As soon as Georgia's strive towards western values became clear, which did not rule out
good-neighbourly relations with Russia, instead of rendering an assistance to the young Georgian government (if Russia indeed intended to build democratic country) the latter started to operate full force of leverage it possessed in order to not allow Georgia to stay away from the empire – empire, formation of a new form of which had already been started and which later was formed not in a fully-fledged form but still in the form of the CIS.
And still, where were mistakes made that resulted in the civil war, Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts?
National but inexperienced and overly self-confident government failed to properly evaluate and analyze extremely grave situation, its causes and what is no less important, abilities of a successor of the very dangerous Soviet KGB - Russian security services – that were actively influencing processes that were taking place in Georgia by means of their agents. Moreover, many irreparable mistakes were made as a result of which Russians security services managed to instigate bloody confrontation between Abkhazians and Ossetians with whom Georgian people were connected through centuries of cohabitation, common culture and close family relations which continues up till today.
In your opinion, how dangerous are recent frequent visits of Georgian politicians to Moscow?
They are dangerous as it can raise false hopes in a part of Georgian population and they might believe that Russian authorities are only against the Saakashvili government. As to Georgian people they (Russian authorities) are thinking day and night about well-being of Georgian people. That is not so. So let's return to the conflict regions. Russia had all possible leverage to resolve the conflicts. It had the UN mandate and it was a peacekeeper. But, no. For 15 years it used to block every initiative directed at the resolution of the conflicts. More, it openly continued its political, economic and military cooperation with the separatist regimes. All this was happening when the part of the opposition who somehow developed a trust towards Russia, were in the government and were not doing anything in this direction.
What is your impression of politicians' statements?
From statements, interviews and public speeches of politicians who put their trust in the Putin government I am getting an impression that they have been living on another planet and have no idea on what was happening in Georgia, as though they do not know anything about Russia's actions directed against Georgia. ... Don't they understand that history is repeating and unfortunately, we are not making correct conclusions?
What were aims of the Kremlin with regards to Georgia?
With regards to Georgia the Kremlin had always had one, very clear aim – not to allow its real independence. It could not get used to any of leader of Georgia who tried to get away from under its influence.
How did it happen that Georgians could not manage to gain majority in the elections of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia at that time?
As we know it was determined by bilateral agreement to have the supreme Council of Abkhazia to be consisted of 65 people. Out of them 28 should have been Abkhazians, 26 – Georgians and 11 - representatives of other ethnic groups. How just this proportion was that is another matter. But the fact is that Georgians could not even manage to elect those 26 people in the first round when Abkhazians elected the all 28. It was possible to find a way-out even in such unprofitable conditions if we were to manage to choose and push through seven persons loyal to Georgians out of those 11. But it did not happen like this. We failed to do this.
And, still, why could not we do this?
I will tell you... At that time it was believed to be fashionable to constantly criticize security services. People who were engaged in this were mainly those who were joined the national movement with the only goal – to get Zviad Gamsakhurdia to like them in order to either retain or get posts that they desired. In most cases they used to succeed in that. As a result of that appointment of incompetent people with ambiguous past became frequent in Georgia and what results it brought we have seen well. It is also well-known that people around Zviad Gamsakhurdia consisted of groups that were in confrontation with each other and they all separately were trying to impose their opinion on the president. And whichever group was the first to do that the decision was taken accordingly. Because of this frequently decisions were inadequate and often one used to rule out the other. The same was happening with the issue of Abkhazia.
It was thanks to Avtandil Ioseliani that then was the head of the security services of Abkhazia that we used to manage to balance situation in extremely grave state that was then. That was a time when national forces that came into power and were still in euphoria had a very light attitude towards the Abkhazian issue and were not taking into account our advices. Neither Abkhazian separatist leaders who were encouraged by the Russian security services and were thus very committed were bent on compromise.
During the consideration of those 11 people security services were not even allowed near. In addition, candidatures suggested by us were not even considered. We were not even given opportunity to determine who those others were. As a result, some of them as soon as they found themselves in the parliament with the help of Georgians betrayed us at the very first session and got over to the Abkhazian side.
After all this Abkhazians could solve any problem without us...
Abkhazians got majority because of our lack of organization. People who were responsible for this, which I believe is akin to betrayal, not only did not take any blame but they never even expressed their regret. And that was the very majority through which Vladyslav Ardzinba used to approve laws unacceptable for the Georgian side.
Due to Russian initiatives (construction of sea port, transportation of inert materials etc.) Abkhazia is threatened with environmental disaster.
Forces that are in opposition of the Abkhazian authorities have long started talking about a possible environmental disaster. It is connected with mass cutting of woods, removal of inert materials and possible start of oil search works on the seabed of the Black Sea. But the puppet regime is trying to strike a pose as though everything that is happening is happening for the sake of resolution of social problems of the population.
At the same time protest rallies of the population in the Ochamchire district with regards to pollution of the river Galidzga and which clearly have marks of order from the authorities raises doubts. The thing is that pollution of the river Galidzga was noticed now when coal mining in Tkvarcheli mines by Turkish company Tamsash was started in 2002 and it was followed by relevant stir. In reality, Turkish company is being driven out of Tkvarcheli by Russian pressure in order to turn the town into military town of the Russian armed forces.
If I am not mistaken there was a suggestion that radioactive materials should have come into Abkhazia from Russia. What is the situation now with this regard?
On January 13th the article "Russia is turning Abkhazia into burial of radioactive waste" was published on our website where we point out very worrying information that we have received from Abkhazia. According to it, it is planned and practically agreed with Bagapsh to secretly bring radioactive materials from Russia and place them in the burial place of the Sukhumi Physical Technical Institute.
Recently information started to circulate that the Institute of Atomic Energy of Russia is signing an agreement with the Sukhumi Physical Technical institute which could easily be an attempt to put the above mentioned plan into legal framework. I should mention that for years scientific and research works had been taking place in this institute for creation of atomic weapons and for this purpose certain radioactive materials were used. During the war actions in Abkhazia with a purpose to avoid leakage of radioactive materials following a possible bombing that would have resulted in environmental disaster a special committee was created through the initiative of the security services. The committee did an inventory and placed in safe burial place 244 types of radioactive substances that were in various labs, among others 96% enriched Uranium – 235. In the conditions of the separatist regime the burial place was robbed and radioactive substances, including Uranium, were taken away.
If there is an attempt of Georgian-Abkhazian people's diplomacy will Russia let Abkhazian "Authorities" do this?
As we know people's diplomacy if it is managed correctly and purposely can play not only important, but I'd say, decisive role in the resolution of conflicts. That nostalgic mood that despite all those years is still strong in both Abkhazian and Ossetian population and among us as well gives me grounds to suppose this. Given that people's diplomacy has no alternative when it comes to restoration and strengthening of human contacts and among other things and most importantly, trust. Naturally Russian security services will try their best to prevent processes from taking such turn.
How able are Georgian security services to prevent any anti-state action whoever is responsible for it?
Today Georgian security services are very active. They have both ability and will as well as means. I am sure that they will not allow processes to develop in the way it is planned by the Russian security services.
How safe are today ethnic Georgian population in the occupied territories?
Unfortunately, the Geneva format is the only way for the Georgian side to express its attitude towards unlawful actions that occupants and the puppet regimes are carrying out towards Georgian population in the occupied territories. Georgian government does not have any other mechanism to do this. All this is beyond our control.
What is today's inner political spectre of Abkhazia like?
After euphoria of "independence" cooled and especially so-called presidential elections passed and several unimportant protest statements later the opposition resigned themselves to Bagapsh being re-elected as the president and went to the shadows. As we suggested it became obvious that the Kremlin had a word or two with leaders of the opposition. And it is up to the Kremlin to decide till when they will be in the shadow. And Russia continues occupation of Abkhazia and openly demonstrates its imperial intentions. Pragmatically thinking part of intelligentsia is deeply concerned as they no longer know what to do. Newspaper Nuzhnaya of Abkhazia recently published an article "why do we need our independence?". The article is very sad and refers to possible elimination of main state attributes - border and armed forces and police – and so on.
What would you say to Abkhazians?
The Club of Experts is of the opinion that the only way of survival of the Abkhazian ethnos is their return to the Georgian space.
How do you see a role of the club of Experts in the resolution of the Georgian-Abkhazian-Ossetian problem?
We understand gravity of the situation in Georgia and our aim is to use our abilities and make our modest contribution into the matter of restoration of territorial integrity of our country.