(See parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII)
Unknown details of the war in Abkhazia. Part IV
Those who lobbied introduction of the internal troops in Abkhazia in the State Council (except for some who were following out the Kremlin instructions) probably hoped for improvement of overall crime situation alongside protection of the railway. Since, as it was noted in previous publications, deterioration of the criminal situation was caused by extreme aggravation of socio-political situation. Given this, many Georgian leaders in Tbilisi and Abkhazia not only were positively disposed towards introduction of Georgian military units, but they even demanded it. At the time when there was no consensus in respect of Abkhazia in the State Council, and civil confrontation was raging in Georgia it was very difficult to make a right decision. Therefore, Eduard Shevardnadze, who was well informed (from us he was, in any case) that Ardzinba at the instigation and support of the Kremlin was ready and only waited for a pretext to begin an armed conflict, should have gone to Abkhazia to familiarize with the situation, to meet with Ardzinba and then make a decision. And against the background of all this there was an unprecedented activization of separatism in Abkhazia and Georgians not only failed to reach an understanding among themselves to continue coordinated protection of Georgia's interests from a handful of separatists, but sometimes an irreconcilable conflict between supporters of Gamsakhurdia and Shevardnadze often came down to physical settling of accounts.
By that time, no one would have thought that later armed formations of Loti Kobalia would have emerged as impenetrable wall along the river Enguri and together with the Gumista, Shroma and Tkvarcheli front lines would in fact surround Georgian military units. And that actually decided the outcome of the war. It is clear that intellectual capabilities of Loti Kobalia' s mind did not allow to come up with this cunning plan, but we can safely say that even in their most beautiful dreams the Abkhazian separatists could not have imagined such favourable developments. Planning all this in advance even surpassed ability of analytical centres of sophisticated in such matters Russian security services. Of course there is no doubt, and our publications confirm that it has been a long time desire of the Kremlin to detach Abkhazia from Georgia which was particularly strengthened after the declaration of independence by Georgia. Partial realization of the plan was (or at least a big step forwards implementation of this goal) the overthrow of Zviad Gamsakhurdia's government that was followed by civil war. Against this background, provoking the Georgian-Abkhaz armed conflict was not very difficult for Moscow and it realized it. But the fact is that Kitovani, Kobalia and many others wllingly or unwillingly have been very good executors of the plan.
It's hard not to think that Loti Kobalia with his actions deliberately played into hands of the enemy. During the war, with rare exception, when in early July of 1993 his armed forces participated in battles near the village of Tamysh of the Ochamchire district against enemy naval landing troops, Loti Kobalia only tired to somehow interfere with the Georgian armed formations. Participation of armed formations of Loti Kobalia in battles in Tamish must have been a result of pressure on him by his own fighters as, I'm sure, that many of them probably could not bare to stand aside in the role of spectators for nearly a year when close by, about 50 kilometres away blood of their compatriots was shed. As you know a large- scale offensive on Sukhumi in all directions planned by the Staff of Generals of the Ministry of Defence of Russia was already prepared, and by then fighting was under way to capture the heights of strategic importance in the vicinity of Sukhumi. The objective of the landing groups was to join assault Tkvarcheli group which by that time had already captured several settlements, and to block the highway linking Ochamchire and Tkvarcheli. This meant that Sukhumi would have been practically surrounded. Fighting for these vital areas lasted more than a week and ended in complete destruction of numerous enemy troops. Fighting in Tamish clearly showed that, together and with combined forces we were a force to be reckoned with, and things could have turned out to our advantage. First of all fight should have continued in the directions of Tkvarcheli and we should have got hold of control over it (why control was not established over Tkvarcheli at the time is another matter). Similarly with combined forces and in an organized manner we should have regained control over heights in the Sukhumi vicinity which at this time were in hands of the separatists. Instead of this by the end of July 1993 Loti Kobalia turned his formations in the eastern direction and captured Khobi and Senaki. This was a period when the Moscow ceasefire agreement of Sochi of July 27th came into force. Simultaneously the separatists were violating the said ceasefire agreement and from time to time used to resume military actions in the vicinity of Sukhumi. At that time the radical wing of the Zviad Gamsakhursdia supporters called on fighters to abandon their positions and join the armed formations of Loti Kobalia.
Unfortunately even today many do not realise that Loti Kobalia took advantage of it and after the Georgian forces entered Abkhazia and dispersed all over Abkhazia he closed off the Engiuri and established control over it. At the first glance such, almost inadequate actions of Loti Kobalia were directed against Eduard Shevardnadze. He wanted to overthrow the Shevardnadze government which was practically left without the armed forces. And the first stage of this was establishment of full control over western Georgia which was later confirmed. Loti Kobalia and his supporters both in Georgia and in Grozny and Moscow did not realize that a fate of territorial integrity of Georgia was being decided in Abkhazia and that if we were to be defeated in this war we all – Georgians and Abkhazian, so-called Zviadists and Shevardnazdists – were to lose.
Starting from then during the entire course of the war there was a constant haggling with Kobalia regarding the issue of allowing military cargo over the Enguri line. Even in rare cases of consent cargoes were often robbed. During one of usual difficult periods when Sukhumi was being continuously bombed large storm did not allow shipping shells for the artillery from Poti. Loti Kobalia did not need much asking and he agreed to allow the carriages loaded with shells. But Cargo carriages used to arrive in Sukhumi unlocked and half-robbed. This was taken into control and together with the military started enquiries as to where carriages could have been robbed. People of Loti Kobalia categorically refused their part in this until it was determined that the carriages were robbed in the Ingiri railway station at his order. Negotiations with Kobalia started again in order to prevent robbing of carriages. A paradoxical situation emerged. At the time when we introduced troops in Abkhazia to establish control over the railway and to prevent facts of robbery gangs of Kobalia blocked the Ingiri railway station and we have to beg him to allow cargoes to pass from time to time, at that he ordered to rob carriages as he pleased. In that case as well an agreement was reached and Kobalia agreed easily to conditions that previously were unacceptable for him – to allow carriages without any inspection. Movement of cargo was resumed and robbery of carriages was ceased. Sealed and untouched carriages entered Sukhumi stations unhindered. All, except for us believed that after finding such easy way to get hold of shells so easily Loti Kobalia could let it go and would not definitely find some other ways. Facts of robbery of shells from cargo carriages in the Ingiti station once again confirmed truth of operational information that the radical wing of Zviadists led by Loti Kobalia were preparing for a rebellion and were stocking up on shells. Some military commanders and government officials even commented ironically about our doubts. They could not even hide their astonishment and could not understand why Kobalia would need shells when he did not have artillery equipment. But we were also puzzled where Kobalia would find such artillery equipment. Anyway, we asked Tbilisi to take appropriate measures to strengthen control over the Russian military bases in order to prevent secret transfer of artillery equipment to Loti Kobalia.
Despite the fact that carriages were no longer robbed and that they were sealed and there were no claims from the military we continued to carry out operational control as much as possible. As we have found out later Loti Kobalia found another way to get hold of shells. He found common ground ( if he had not had it before) with high rank military officials of the army corps deployed in Sukhumi who were responsible for reception and registering military cargoes, including shells. The above persons had "trusted" contingent chosen among the military personnel whom they used to unload the military cargo carriages in the Sukhumi railway station. Then shells that were in the easily reached areas of carriages were unloaded while those that were stocked deep inside carriages on both sides were left there on the spot. After that doors of the carriages were closed and returned back as empty ones. And those specially left shells then were unloaded in the Ingiri station by the Kobalia people. Thus the third of the entire amount of shells appeared in the hands of Kobalia. A criminal case regarding the above-mentioned fact was instituted in the Abkhazian security service. In the preliminary stage of the investigation a group of high-rank military officials who were in criminal ties with Loti Kobalia emerged. In this situation, as it concerned the army corps and at that the situation with regards to Sukhumi became extremely tense and Abkhazians violated the Sochi agreement of July 27th head of the Information and analytical department of the time Irakli Batiashvili decided to continue investigation in the centre and personally took investigation materials to Tbilisi. After that the war was resumed and resulted in the loss of Abkhazia and the investigation was stopped. As we know Irakli Batiashivli resigned after the loss of Abkhazia soon and it is clear to everybody why his successor Igor Giorgadze did not bring the investigation to the end.