Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 197

According to Lieutenant-General William Odom, former director of the United States National Security Agency (NSA), Yevgeny Primakov–Russia’s ex-foreign minister and prime minister–has been involved in two assassination attempts against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. In a live interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on October 22, Odom stated that the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies possess evidence to that effect, including U.S. intercepts of the plotters’ communications and material evidence made available by Georgian security services. As Odom summarized it, the evidence suggested that the Russian government, with Primakov’s personal knowledge, had used professionally trained killers and also drew on a Belarusan network of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) for the two assassination attempts on Shevardnadze. Odom discussed those attempts in the context of “Russia’s goal to reestablish imperial control over the entire Caucasus”–a goal currently lurking behind Russia’s “antiterrorist” war in Chechnya, Odom remarked.

A senior Tbilisi official, who is a member of Georgia’s Security Council, confirmed to the Moscow weekly Vremya MN that the Georgian leadership had turned over to Washington intelligence information implicating Primakov. American eavesdropping satellites, moreover, picked up telephone conversations between Russian officials and Igor Giorgadze, Georgia’s former security chief and suspected organizer of the 1995 assassination attempt on Shevardnadze. The Russian authorities have been sheltering Giorgadze ever since, defying Georgia’s numerous requests to detain and extradite him.

Russia’s SVR and Primakov have issued firm denials of Odom’s account. Primakov has also filed a protest with the Georgian government and threatened to renounce the title of honorary citizen of Georgia–a title he holds by virtue of having been raised in Tbilisi (Prime-News, Vremya MN, Turan, October 22-23).

Shevardnadze and other Georgian officials had strongly hinted after each assassination attempt–in August 1995, February 1998 and May 1999–that they suspected Russian government hardliners as organizers and would-be beneficiaries (see the Monitor, September 5, 1995, February 11, 17-18, 1998, May 24-25, 1999). Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev had earlier been the target of several assassination attempts, the threads of which led to Moscow’s intelligence agencies.