Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 39

The Russian and Georgian ministers of internal affairs, Sergei Stepashin and Kakha Targamadze, signed in Moscow yesterday a cooperation agreement for the period 1999-2000. Aside from the usual clauses on combating organized crime, the agreement creates a joint “collegium” (high-level policy and management board) of the two ministries, an arrangement signifying an unusually close relationship. The document, moreover, envisages cooperation in tracking down and arresting terrorists wanted by either side on the other’s territory.

At the signing ceremony, Stepashin announced the extradition of a Georgian fugitive “engaged in antistate and antipresidential activity,” and promised to cooperate in extraditing another one, a suspect in the 1998 assassination attempt against President Eduard Shevardnadze. The presumed assailants in that attempt were Zviadists residing in Russia. Stepashin, however, maintained the pretense that Russian authorities are unaware both of the whereabouts of other Zviadist suspects and of Igor Giorgadze, the accused organizer of the 1998 attempt against the Georgian president (Itar-Tass, February 24).

Shevardnadze has repeatedly accused the Russian authorities of abetting international terrorism by sheltering these fugitives from Georgian justice. Only three days ago, the Georgian president stated that Giorgadze is currently hiding at a military base in Russia, and that Zviadists are issuing appeals for the overthrow of the Georgian government from their Russian haven. But Shevardnadze went on to say that he would not make this issue into a test of overall Russian-Georgian relations (Prime-News, Kavkazia-press, February 22).

That presidential statement and the Stepashin-Targamadze agreement seem to presage a modus vivendi whereby Moscow will turn over to Georgia some small and perhaps medium Zviadist fry, but will continue protecting Giorgadze while perhaps curbing his habit of granting inflammatory press interviews from his “secret” quarters in Russia.

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