President Eduard Shevardnadze, other Georgian officials and diplomats stationed in Tbilisi were cited in yesterday’s New York Times as being in consensus that "forces in Russia" were behind the February 9 attempt on Shevardnadze’s life. The officials and diplomats described Russian government circles as splintered, with "a hawkish group not associated with President Boris Yeltsin dominating policy toward the Caucasus."
"Independence in the Caucasus has become a fact. They can’t reconcile themselves to that fact," one top Shevardnadze aide commented. Shevardnadze himself said that he "does not have in mind the Russian leadership. But there are other circles who have their own interests and use that kind of methods." (The New York Times, February 11)
Georgian law enforcement officials investigating the attack on Shevardnadze note its well organized and professional execution and Shevardnadze’s extreme luck to escape unhurt–a view shared by foreign observers. In the morning of February 10, several hours after the attack, a military plane took off for Russia from the Vaziani airbase of the Russian Group of Forces in the Caucasus. That has served to increase Georgian suspicions of Russian involvement because Igor Giorgadze and several associates were flown to Moscow from Vaziani after the attempt on Shevardnadze’s life in August 1995. The airbase, situated outside Tbilisi, is out of bounds to the Georgian authorities. Giorgadze, a former head of State Security, is the suspected leader of the 1995 plot.
Following this latest attempt on Shevardnadze’s life, Tbilisi has redoubled efforts to extradite Giorgadze from Russia for trial on charges of terrorism. On February 10, Chief Prosecutor Jamlet Babilashvili expressed the hope that, this time around, Russian authorities would not again give the "cynical answer" that they do not know Giorgadze’s whereabouts. Yesterday, Russia’s Internal Affairs Ministry officially responded that it does not know Giorgadze’s whereabouts. (Russian and Western agencies, February 11)
Two Traps Before the Tajik Opposition.