Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 24

The Chechen issue seriously intruded into relations between Russia and Georgia over the past week, and the U.S. State Department was required once again to issue a warning to Russia to respect Georgian sovereignty. In a piece entitled “Artillery Diplomacy,” Kommersant reported on August 1: “Yesterday [July 31], several Russian officials, including the president, placed the responsibility on Georgia for an incursion of rebels from the Pankisi Gorge into Russia. It is not to be excluded that this represents a final warning before an action of force is undertaken by Russia on Georgian territory…. The president of Russia met with the director of the Federal Border Guard Service of the Russian Federation, Konstantin Totsky…. It is very symptomatic that journalists knew the content of their conversation. The president asked whether the Georgian side had known about the movement being prepared of bandit formations into Russia at the Itum-Kale sector of the border. The head of the border guards answered in the affirmative. In his words, the Georgian border guards let the Chechen rebels peacefully pass by their posts.” Putin was then reported to have said to Totsky: “In their mass, the Georgian people relate extremely positively to Russia, and I am certain that this is also true of the Russian people with regard to the Georgian people. This constitutes a good potential for the reestablishment in the future of full-fledged relations between the Russian Federation and Georgia.” The present Georgian leadership, Putin gave Totsky to understand, “is not friendly toward Russia.” Moscow therefore does not have any plans to mend relations with it.