Georgian police detain Russian peace-keepers - June, 2008

Load of Revenge

Russians transport missiles to Abkhazia: Georgian media:

June, 2008

Yesterday Georgia’s police released four Russian peace-keepers who were detained in the buffer zone of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict when they transported antitank guided missiles. After a nine-hour interrogation the military were set free, but the arsenal they had carried was confiscated. Tbilisi explained the measures it took with the fact that the Russian peace-keepers had no right to appear in the conflict zone with such dangerous load. Georgia is likely to take advantage of the new scandal using it as another reason for changing the format of the peace-keeping mission in Abkhazia. Tbilisi has already handed over a note of protest to the Russian Foreign Office.

Yesterday Georgia’s police reported that the four Russian peace-keepers, who were detained in the Zugdidi district of the republic, were handed over to the representative of the CIS Collective Peace-keeping Forces in the zone of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict Vladimir Rogozin. The military were detained near a bridge over the Inguri river, which separates Georgia from Abkhazia. The Georgian policemen’s attention was attracted with the ammunition in the peace-keepers’ truck. “We had the information that the Russian might carry some unwarranted weapons. And they might take it to their base that they illegally set up in the Zugdidi district,” a source with the Georgian police told Kommersant.

The news about the detention of the peace-keepers immediately became the main issue that the Georgian mass media covered. The journalists, who were quick to arrive at the scene, were shown 35 boxes with antitank guided missiles and mines found in the truck of the Russian peace-keepers. When detained, the military didn’t put up resistance. However, they were brought down, handcuffed and taken to a police station. The peace-keepers were interrogated till yesterday’s morning, then they were released and given their three Kalashnikov rifles, one sniper rifle and the ammunition. The Georgian authorities didn’t give back the mines and missiles, bringing a criminal case about smuggling weapons and explosives.

When commenting on the actions of the police, Head of the Information and Analytical Department with the Georgian Interior Ministry Shota Utiashvili told Kommersant that the military from the Russian contingent brought a great deal of new weaponry to the Zugdidi district without receiving the agreement of the Georgian party. “The movements of the Russian military in our territories were unauthorized and were not sanctioned by Georgia’s bodies. Naturally, the Interior Ministry cut it short,” Mr Utiashvili stated. Commander of the Georgian peace-keeping contingent in the zones of the Georgia-Abkhazia and Georgia-South Ossetia conflicts Colonel Mamuka Kurashvili sided with Mr Utiashvili, “The peace-keepers were not allowed to transport the missiles that were found in their truck in the zone of the conflict. Moreover, the unauthorized movement means breaking all agreements reached. They had no document reading that they transported that sort of arms. Besides, the load was accompanied by Russian commandos, whose deployment in the conflict zone a few weeks ago was another example of violation of the agreements,” Colonel Kurashvili argued.

The behaviour of the Georgian authorities aroused irritation with the Russian military and the government of Abkhazia. “The peace-keepers were at the gun point of unknown people in civilian clothes. They were disarmed in a criminal manner and taken to a police station,” said irritatingly Commander-in-Chief of the Russian land forces Colonel Igor Konashenkov. “Such illegal actions contradict all statutory acts, because the incident occurred in the buffer zone of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict.” The colonel emphasized that the Ural truck, which was confiscated, and the ammunition, which was there, must be given back to the Russian peace-keepers.

In his turn, representative of the Abkhaz President in the Gali district, which borders on the Zugdidi district of Georgia, Ruslan Kishmaria called the incident “provocation” as he gave an interview to Kommersant. “The Georgians had better read the agreement of 1994 “On cease-fire.” It’s clear from the document that peace-keepers have the right to move throughout the territory of the buffer zone when carrying out their mission. And there were no missiles there. There was only the anti-tank guided missile system which is part of the infantry fighting vehicle. So, the Russian side didn’t have to get any permit,” Mr Kishmaria stressed.

The agreement that the official refers to really contains a provision reading that peace-keepers and international observers in the zone of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict are to get warranties of the parties, but only in case they leave the buffer zone. The Russian peace-keepers didn’t do it, thus they didn’t violate the agreement. Nonetheless, according to Shota Utiashvili, now the Georgian government is occupied with another matter: It wants to find out whether the confiscated weapons can reside in the conflict zone.

The Georgian Foreign Office has already blamed the escalation of tensions in Abkhazia on Russia. “International community regards Russia as one of the parties in the conflict and unanimously supports the peace initiatives of the Georgian President,” the Ministry’s press-release reads. This said, you can expect Tbilisi to foster the changing of the format of the peace-keeping mission in the zone of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict. More to the point, at the end of May the Russian Foreign Office received a note via the CIS executive committee urging it to launch consultations about a withdrawal of the Russian peace-keepers, which are deployed in Abkhazia under the auspices of the Commonwealth.


In other news:

India, Russia develop airborne supersonic cruise missile

The Russian-Indian BrahMos Aerospace joint venture has finished the development of the airborne version of an advanced supersonic missile, the company's managing director has said. Established in 1998, BrahMos Aerospace designs, produces, and markets supersonic missiles, whose sea-based and land-based versions have been successfully tested and put into service with the Indian Army and Navy. "For the airborne version...we had to reduce the mass of the missile and to ensure aerodynamic stability after its separation from the aircraft. The air-launched platform has its own initial speed during the launch of the missile, so we have reduced the size of the booster. Now the missile is ready," Sivathanu Pillai told RIA Novosti in an exclusive interview. The BrahMos missile has a range of 180 miles (290 kms) and can carry a conventional warhead of up to 660 pounds. It can hit surface targets while flying at an altitude as low as 10 meters (30 feet) and at a speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the U.S.-made subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile. The official said the Indian Air Force had chosen SU-30 MKI Flanker-H multirole fighter as a trial platform for the missile. "We have a schedule for flight trials, but progress has slowed down, as Russia's Sukhoi Design Bureau has its own priority for fifth generation aircraft," Pillai said. India is planning to produce at least 140 Su-30MKI fighters by 2014 under a Russian license with full technology transfer. Experts estimate that India might purchase up to 1,000 BrahMos missiles for its Armed Forces in the next decade, and export 2,000 to third countries during the same period.


New Russian frigate may be fitted with BrahMos cruise missiles

A Russian frigate being built at a shipyard in St. Petersburg may be equipped with sea-based Russian-Indian BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, a Russian defense industry official said on Friday. "The only [Russian combat] ship that could feature these [the BrahMos] missiles is the Project 22350 frigate Admiral Sergei Gorshkov being built at the Severnaya Verf shipyard in St. Petersburg," the source said. In 1998, Russia and India established the BrahMos Aerospace joint venture to design, develop, produce and market a supersonic cruise missile. The BrahMos missile, named after India's Brahmaputra River and Russia's Moskva River, has a range of 180 miles (290 km) and can carry a conventional warhead of up to 660 pounds. It can hit ground and sea targets while flying at an altitude as low as 10 meters (30 feet) and at a speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the U.S.-made subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile. Its sea-based and land-based versions have been successfully tested and put into service with the Indian Army and Navy. The three additional Project 11356 Krivak IV-class guided missile frigates built in Russia for the Indian Navy will feature the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile system. Experts estimate that India might purchase up to 1,000 BrahMos missiles for its Armed Forces in the next decade, and export 2,000 to third countries during the same period. Russia apparently had no plans to for the missile to enter service with its Armed Forces, but under pressure from the Indian side may consider equipping at least one surface ship with BrahMos missiles. "Considering that we have only one platform [suitable for BrahMos missiles] we may deploy six of them on the ship [the Admiral Gorshkov frigate]," the Russian official said. The Admiral Sergei Gorshkov is scheduled for launch in 2009. According to some military sources Russia's Navy intends to procure up to 20 such vessels. The frigate has a displacement of about 4,500 tons, a length of over 130 meters (430 feet), a maximum width of 16 meters (51 feet), and a range of over 4,000 miles. The defense ministry official also said on Friday that neither Russia's newest Steregushchy class corvettes nor submarines currently in service with the Russian Navy could carry BrahMos missiles due to their hull and capacity specifications.


Russia to start training Indian pilots for aircraft carrier

Russia will start training Indian pilots on MiG-29 carrier fighters to be deployed on the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier sold to India for $1.5 billion in 2004, the head of the MiG corporation said Wednesday. Under a contract, signed in January 2004, Russia is to deliver 12 single-seater MiG-29Ks and four two-seater MiG-29KUBs by 2009, to be later deployed on board the Vikramaditya, formerly named the Admiral Gorshkov, currently undergoing a major refit in Russia for the Indian Navy. "In June, we are starting a theoretical course for Indian navy pilots, using the manufactured fighters," Anatoly Belov said. "And in August we will begin the flight training." Some media sources circulated in May reports that the Indian Navy had asked Boeing to supply its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet supersonic carrier-based fighter aircraft for use on board the Vikramaditya. However, Russian military experts have said using F-18 Super Hornets on the Admiral Gorshkov would pose difficulties. After long-running delays and disputes, Russia and India agreed in February to raise refit costs for the aircraft carrier, berthed at the Sevmash shipyard in north Russia for the past 12 years. Moscow has reportedly demanded an additional $1.2 billion, a sum New Delhi has called exorbitant. The carrier is to replace India's INS Viraat, which although still operational is 50 years old.


Indian army chief to visit Russia June 23-27

Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor will pay a five-day visit to Russia on June 23-27, India's Defense Ministry said on Thursday. During the visit, Kapoor will meet with representatives from the Russian defense ministry and armed forces to discuss strengthening military ties. He will visit Moscow, St. Petersburg and the North Caucasus military district. The last time an army chief from India visited Russia was in September 2007 as part of the INDRA-2007 joint counter-terrorism exercise in Russia's northwest Pskov Region.


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