The deputy head of President Boris Yeltsin’s administration, Yevgeny Savostyanov, announced yesterday that "there is a good chance" that Igor Giorgadze and associates would be detained and extradited to Georgia. The Russian authorities, he said, "will do everything possible" toward that end. The Giorgadze group "may have enjoyed the protection of certain Russian security structures," Savostyanov added. The statement constitutes the first semi-admission of this known fact by official Moscow in two and a half years. To explain the apparent change of position, Savostyanov cited "the changed psychological atmosphere" following the recent assassination attempt against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.
The Giorgadze group is suspected in the February 9 attempt and is presumed to have organized the 1995 abortive coup against the Georgian president.
In the last few days:
–Shevardnadze telephoned Yeltsin on the issue;
–Tbilisi published a list of its official extradition requests, unmet by Moscow on the pretense that it could not find those wanted;
–Georgian ambassador Vazha Lordkipanidze went on Russian television to say that Tbilisi knew only too well the places in and around Moscow which Giorgadze had openly frequented;
–and Internal Affairs Minister Kakha Targamadze personally handed over information on the matter to his Russian counterpart Anatoly Kulikov in Moscow after the latter had again claimed ignorance.
Tbilisi has turned down Russian security agencies’ offers to join the investigation on Georgian territory. It has, however, welcomed a U.S. team that is actively participating in the investigation. The findings announced in the last two days suggest two things. First, that the assassination attempt originated from outside Georgia. Second, that it involved some twenty direct participants, including several ethnic Chechens and several Georgian supporters of the late president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The investigators have found videotapes and audio tapes on which the hit squad recorded its assault.
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