Abkhazian separatism was born in the labyrinths of the KGB. Part VI
29/04/2011 17:47
Levan Kiknadze
Expert's Club

(See parts I, II, III, IV, V)

Unknown details of the war in Abkhazia. Part I

August 14th, 1992 is one of the most tragic days in the long history of Georgian-Abkhazian relations. It was that day when a fratricidal war started which probably could have been avoided if any of the parties had the slightest idea of its heavy, devastating results. And though Ardzinba almost did not leave us a chance and he did everything to take Abkhazia out of the legal space of Georgia, the State Council made no less a mistake, almost a crime, when it decided to enter Abkhazia to restore order on the railway. But the Georgian side's argument that the situation at the Abkhazian section of the railway at that time required establishing order by use of force and that is why in Abkhazia military forces were introduced seems quite weak. The country's leadership was obliged to analyze possible difficulties. All the more that as written or verbal intelligence presented by us showed that Ardzinba was searching for a reason to unleash a fratricidal war. In addition, no special knowledge of military affairs was necessary to calculate that it was impossible to reach a stated goal by using armed formations of unskilled, collected in a matter of urgency volunteers. All the more that most of their commanders, not to mention ordinary soldiers, had no idea about the purpose of their introduction into Abkhazia. A main goal of the Russian security services was to make the Georgian side yield to provocation and to lure its armed forces into Abkhazia (even a time was chosen precisely to transfer armoured vehicles from Akhaltsikhe military base to Georgia). And events that unfolded afterwards did not demand from them any development plan or special effort of mind. Ardzinba also reacted instantly and drew Georgian armed formations into the fratricidal war.

Over the entire period after the war a lot has been said about the war in Abkhazia. In Georgia, it is difficult to meet a person who does not have his/her own view on the Georgian-Abkhazian confrontation and in particular on the war. But objectivity and impartiality of this view depends on who approaches and how one approaches this question, how deep their knowledge of the real situation that existed at that time in Georgia, and, in particular, in Abkhazia is. Surprisingly, assessment also depends on what political faith people had at that time, etc. But everything was obscure, and many are confused and cannot understand what exactly caused the war or our defeat.

One gets an impression that it is not in us that one should seek causes of our defeat, which are not that small. It is well known that during the war decisive importance is given to coordinated, organized activities that are strictly subordinated to unified military command, which the Georgian military formations not just lacked but they were completely absent in the beginning of the war. Those armed formations consisted mainly of volunteers, imbued with patriotic feelings. But, unfortunately, among them were more than enough criminal elements that went to war for "profit". More than 18 years have passed since the end of the war and until today reasons for our defeat have not been reviewed and investigated at the professional level. And this should be done not only to punish the guilty, but primarily in order to prevent repeat of similar mistakes. Instead, given the political reality that emerged in Georgia in the post-war period, it was considered bad taste to even talk about any error on our part. Otherwise where it is heard that the losing side in the war to be handing out awards. And this is not about those brave young men who died and whose heroic actions became known later, or they were not awarded at the time due to some reasons. Also no one disputes that memory of those killed or maimed in this war must have been properly honoured. We are certain what everything is done for them and their families is far from enough.

For obvious reasons, the role of the state security service in the war in Abkhazia is a closed subject. No one is interested and it is not seen anywhere what we were doing in that period, or whether we were doing anything at all. The Club of Experts decided to partially touch upon topics that we hope will be of interest to readers. We allow ourselves also to talk about shortcomings which interfered into or prevented implementation of operative-investigative activities.

Let's start with the fact that Eduard Shevardnadze, who came in the wake of the state coup, saw clearly that he had been held hostage by the forces that overthrew Zviad Gamsakhurdia and some of their adventurous leaders. That is why many decisions were made based on populism and a desire to please the agitated society rather than in favour of state interests. One of such decisions was to rename the state security service and its transformation into information and intelligence service that actually meant leaving the country without security services. The Zviad Gamsakhurdia government also believed that it was necessary and right to put the former KGB in the service of the country but they did not know how to accomplish this (and how could they know). Top rank officials have changed, but the core of operational workers remained almost unchanged, unless one counts those who had clear anti-national position and were forced to leave the security service voluntarily or under pressure. And among the existing staff, of course, were officers deeply implanted by the Soviet KGB and this was confirmed by later events. Unfortunately, reform of the security services did not go further than that. It should also be noted that irreconcilable confrontation, which arose between the Zviad Gamsakhurdia government and the opposition, not only contributed to the division of Georgian society into two hostile camps but also had a negative impact on activities of employees of the security service. At that, the nearest circle of Zviad Gamsakhurdia by putting constant pressure tried to use the security services and its resources as a weapon against the opposition. And it was very painful for the public, when they managed to achieve this, especially when it came to operational record-keeping. A significant part of society which was in anticipation of disclosure of personal files and gripped with "agentmania" was overwhelmed by chaos and uncertainty. The situation was further aggravated by the Russian security services, which through deeply implanted workers and their agents exercised relevant influence on the situation (see "Abkhazian separatism was born in the labyrinths of the KGB" parts I and II). Naturally, reform of the security service was impossible in this situation.

As we noted above, the State Council under the leadership of Eduard Shevardnadze indeed renamed the security service into the information and intelligence service, but no reforms were carried out there, except a few personnel changes. Meanwhile radical reorganization of the state security service was crucial for the young independent state. I cannot say whose idea it was to deprive the security service of all functions, except for intelligence, but realization of what was in this idea, especially in Abkhazia, would have been tantamount to treason. We can assume that one of the leaders of the national movement Irakli Batiashvili agreed to head the service provided that the KGB changed its name and its function were to be reduced. But after he, already in capacity of chairman of service, familiarized himself with functions and resources of the security service, its operational cases, he probably understood that then Georgia needed strong state security service, staffed with experienced and loyal workers. So he did the right thing, when he decided to maintain its functions. On this basis, after consultation with the centre and by decision of Avtandil Ioseliani who at the time was chairman of the security service of Abkhazia, gathering of intelligence information remained our main task. But no one was going to give up old functions either, especially, as we noted in a previous articles, by order of Ardzinba security service of the separatist government was already in operation and on its basis it was planned to create an alternative security service subordinated directly to the Ardzinba. As the course of the war showed later internal threats posed no less danger to the country.

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