Abkhazian separatism was born in the labyrinths of the KGB. Part VII
17/05/2011 16:43
Levan Kiknadze
Expert's Club

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

Unknown details of the war in Abkhazia. Part II

By the beginning of the war the security service of Abkhazia was not divided along ethnic lines. Then chairman of the security service of Abkhazia Avtandil Ioseliani, even in conditions of constant pressure from the separatists, used to manage to reasonably balance the situation. He never used to openly interfere into and never allowed us to get involved in political processes. And this did not give Ardzinba a pretext for making changes in personnel as he pleased as he had done in the interior ministry. With his usual openness Avtandil Ioseliani used to present suggestions about ways out of the situation and demanded their resolution, bringing arguments. And sometimes he achieved this. He was one of the most trustworthy link between Vladyslav Ardzinba and the government of Georgia. If not the influence of the Kremlin leadership on Ardzinba we can say with certainty that many issues, and among them the most fateful one - the armed confrontation could have been avoided. There often were cases when Ioseliani was able to persuade Ardzinba with regards to some issue but after consultations in Moscow the latter used to go back to the old position. This was the case before the beginning of the war when the government of Georgia had talks with Ardzinba about an issue of protection of the Abkhazian section of the railway and introduction of internal troops for this purpose. Avtandil Ioseliani practically persuaded Ardzinba and it was decided that they would go to Tbilisi to meet with the State Council, and namely with Eduard Shevardnadze. Ardzinba, who was a coward by his nature, did not want to go to Tbilisi as he was afraid of being arrested and this he openly told Ioseliani. After this Ioseliani suggested that he would leave his wife and three daughters who at the time lived in Gagra as hostages. After this Ardzinba decided to trust Ioseliani and agreed to go to Tbilisi with him. But as we mentioned above the Kremlin again exercised it influence over him and made him refuse to go to Tbilisi.

A right civic position of Avtandil Ioseliani ignited hope in Abkhazian workers of the security service that the bloody confrontation that had already started would soon stop and life would go back to its usual course. Therefore only a group of radically-disposed towards Georgians Abkhazian workers followed their separatist leader to Gudauta. While significant part of Abkhazian workers stayed with us as at the moment they believed that a common goal for both sides was to stop the bloody confrontation. We, and most importantly they as well, still hoped that such possibility existed. Given this we all understood very well how important reliable information coming from officials and operative sources about what was going on or was planned in the upper ranks of both Georgian and Abkhazian authorities. Unfortunately, acquired information clearly showed that the negotiations about disarmament of armed formations and their removal from Abkhazia not only were not implemented but , on the contrary, Russia secretly supported to help influx of volunteers from North Caucasian republics and other regions of Russia, provision of various military equipment , arms and ammunition. Under the pretext of additional measures to protect Russian military facilities located in Abkhazia they were suspiciously increasing the number of military manpower and armoured vehicles. It was starting to become obvious, and after events confirmed this, that after reactionary forces of Russia managed to use a unique opportunity and with the help of the Georgianphobe Arzinba managed to draw the Georgian side into an armed provocation, were not going to give up positions so easily and would not stop this fratricidal war. When this hope was dead Abkhazian workers themselves decided to leave Sukhumi in the beginning of 1993. But before that none of us ever made them or tried in any form to compel them to work against the separatists. It must be noted that today none of them, two of whom later was in charge of the security service of the separatists while several others are still on top security service positions today, can say that they were experiencing any kind of pressure from us. Some may suppose that Abkhazian workers were specially left behind by our adversary but I would like to say for them to hear that we considered this and took relevant measures. Besides, their working with us had its purpose as it was already mentioned above.

Thus we continued our activities with significantly thin operative personnel. First thing that was done we gave information about out functions to commander of the 23rd Sukhumi brigade Geno Adamia and established business relations with military intelligence of the brigade for the purpose of exchange of intelligence information. In addition, having agreed with Adamia our operative workers were sent to battalions of the brigade deployed on the Gumista frontline who on place were conducting operative activities. They together with headquarters of battalions were checking lists of perosnnel of volunteers, conducted checking of population that remained on the territories adjacent to the frontline. They participated in determining and interrogation of war prisoners or strangers that were found on the territory.

It must be noted that after the start of the war central leadership of the information and intelligence department failed to relatively assess what destructive results could have followed uncontrolled actions of various armed formations let roaming uncontrolled on the Georgian-controlled territories. We deeply believe that at the time when defence ministry was not fully formed and not entirely consisted of appropriately prepared personnel, it should have been security service that was to take charge of those necessary functions that would have provided appropriate order in the frontline cities and districts – Sukhumi, Gulripsh, Ochamchire, Gali. As a result of this, facts of robbery of the population would have been avoided. The course of the war and especially its first months clearly showed that the military commandant's office of Sukhumi acted most effectively when it acted in a tight coordination with the security service. On October 2nd 1992, after the fall of Gagra the Sukhumi sea port was overflowed by refugees that had been driven out of the Gagra area as well as population of Gulripsh and Sukhumi. Though all kinds of sea transport were mobilized there still was complete lawlessness
and chaos in the port. Difficulties were created also by efforts of members of some Georgian armed formations to establish their "own control" over the port. And they interfered into efforts of evacuation of refugees and local population as well as in timely provision of troops with military equipment and ammunition by the sea from Poti and batumi as it known that the only land way into Abkhazia via Zugdidi was closed by illegal armed formations of Loti Kobalia. With the request of General Lieutenant Antandil Tskhitishvili and Avtandil Ioseliani's consent also, I, who at the time occupied the post of deputy head of the security service of Abkhazia was charged with acting simultaneously as a commandant of the Sukhumi sea port. I formed a mobile group of 10 people from young workers of the security service and immediately started to establish control in the port. First of all, we took care of evacuation of the population. At that we have completely eliminated facts of unauthorized actions in the port. A timetable of movement of sea transport was subject to a strict control. We have changed call names of ships and introduced code phrases. Talking about a variety of watercrafts on the air was completely prohibited. We have fulfilled our mission and till the end of December we were not too bad in in controlling the Sukhumi port.

Work relations that were established with military commandant of Sukhumi of the time, now deceased Colonel Tsiviladze who was very well aware of necessity of using our capabilities, should be especially noted (similar relations were not established with others after him as they were changed very often). At the initiative of Tsiviladze we regularly, in night hours carried out raids in the city, checked posts. To avoid all kinds of misunderstanding he used to ask and we used to give him information about detained persons that later were handed over to the commandant's office and so on. The situation demanded putting of the security service of Abkhazia on a war footing and first of all formation of a special fighting unit. Although Irakli Batiashvili consented and the issue was agreed with Eduard Shevardnadze to especially gather 200 people in Abkhazia, 100 out of them in Sukhumi and others to be distributed in the above mentioned districts as required, but after the contingent was chosen and appropriately checked it became impossible to employ them. The reason for this was that funds and appropriate equipment could not be found for us, despite the fact that we did not demand the especial unit to be fully equipped in its classic meaning.

And as we mentioned the sea port above, we cannot not mention activities of a group that we had ourselves formed and which undertook a very necessary and difficult function - control of ship movement in the Sukhumi waters. The thing is that during the Communist regime a secret facility of special regime under subordination of the centre operated in Sukhumi. This was scientific and research institute Atol, with a purpose of improvement of hydro location equipment and for other purposes studied particularities of spread of sound in the sea, spread and absorption of sound in the sea, reflection of sound and work on hydroacustic information. Two scientific-research ships the Vector and the Modul that were registered on the balance of the institute were used for the same purposes. The institute used to carry out orders of military fleet of the defence ministry of the USSR. In the later times, before the collapse of the Soviet Union the institute was carrying out tests of secret equipment, coordinates of which were confidential. Receiver of the equipment separated a sound of an engine of a ship from various sounds existed in the sea, transformed it into electric signal and though a underwater cable used to transmit it the devices mounted in the laboratory of the said institute. The device registered coordinates of the ship, direction of its movement and other parameters on oscillograph. The equipment was meant for Murmansk - sea border if the new land to control movement of watercrafts, subwater and aircrafts of foreign countries. By the time of the beginning of the war in Abkhazia research works in the above-mentioned institute were no longer conducted but equipment was still in the sea as its transfer to its place of destination were not done due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Leadership of the security service and a subdivision that was directly involved in its operative service knew about activities of the institute in this sphere. After the start of the war, in order to control movement of fight watercrafts of the Abkhazian separatists in the sea idea was born to use of abilities of the institute and namely its scientific-research ships and laboratory. After talking to workers of the institute we became convinced that it was possible to start operating the lab. We went to head of the institute G. Kuznetsov but he refused. He also did not consent to our using of one of the ships the Vector on which middle range radars were mounted for air and sea control. More we received information that Kuznetsov intended to take secret and confidential documentation of the institute into Russia. We immediately raise this issue and dismissed him from his post. After that it became possible not only to put the Vector in the Sukhumi waters and organize its standing on duty but also putting the laboratory of the institute into operation. Today it is easy to say but at the time it was almost absolutely impossible to organize these extremely difficult and necessary matters. Diesel fuel, wages and food for specialists that worked for 24 hours, and many other details – everything was on us to take care. Not to mention a group of workers of the security service that from the lighthouse of the institute all day round visually controlled very small watercrafts which radars of the Vector and acoustic equipment were unable to detect. For the purpose of operative exchange of information we organized a direct telephone line from the institute to special switchboard of the security service that also maintained a direct line with headquarters of the brigade. It should also be noted that till end of the war, as soon as any of the watercrafts which found themselves within range of the receiver of acoustic signals crossed conventional maritime boundary (along the line the Gumista front) information about this was immediately sent to headquarters. By the end of this year, the system of sea control "lighthouse", which by that time had already been running smoothly, was transferred to naval forces of the Ministry of Defence. Significance that the Abkhazian side attached to our above-mentioned activities was clearly demonstrated in establishment of special unit done by the order of Vladimir Ardzinba which was charged with destruction of marine facilities situated on the territory controlled by the Georgian side, and first of all, destruction of the Vector.

Unfortunately, due to unjustifiable reasons, we failed to promptly remove from Abkhazia at least two sets of equipment, similar to those mentioned unique devices that were disassembled, and top-secret documents. According to experts, later they could guarantee secure protection for the waters of Georgia. Although, at the time we raised this question, but we could not realize everything in time. We could not raise interest in anyone regarding this issue, and at the end of the war, of course, none of us had time for all this.

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