06MOSCOW9823, RUSSIAN MFA ON HELICOPTER INCIDENT IN SOUTH OSSETIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW9823 2006-09-06 13:15 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2376
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #9823/01 2491315
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 061315Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1741
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 009823 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2016 
TAGS: PREL MOPS GG RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN MFA ON HELICOPTER INCIDENT IN SOUTH OSSETIA 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (b, d) 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Following the September 3 firing on a 
Georgian military helicopter over South Ossetia, the 
Ambassador contacted DFM Karasin to highlight the danger 
posed by the incident and to urge Russia to use its influence 
with the South Ossetians to prevent its repetition.  Karasin 
acknowledged the incident was a serious matter and urged that 
all sides avoid an overreaction.  German, French and UK 
envoys told the Ambassador they are also asking Russia to 
take steps to lower tensions.  MFA officials continue to 
argue to us that the helicopter flight was provocative and 
violated cease-fire protocols, but recognize that the 
shooting has created a dangerous situation.  They say they 
are urging South Ossetian authorities to act with restraint. 
Russia is likely to use the JCC meeting tentatively scheduled 
for mid-September to repeat Russian claims, but GOR officials 
might also suggest clarifications to the protocol regulating 
over-flights of South Ossetia to avoid another such incident. 
 End Summary. 
. 
GOR PUBLIC STATEMENTS 
--------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU)  General Marat Kulakhmetov, the Russian commander 
of the Joint Peacekeeping Force, provided an initial Russian 
reaction September 4 by claiming that the over-flight and 
attack on the helicopter were both violations of existing 
cease-fire agreements.  Later that day, the MFA spokesman 
Mikhail Kamynin provided a more one-sided response.  After 
providing details of the incident, he said that the Georgian 
actions were a "provocation" aimed at undermining the peace 
process and were an attempt to seek alternative means to 
settle the dispute.  Ambassador-at-Large for South Ossetia 
Yuriy Popov directly blamed the Georgians for provoking the 
incident in September 4 comments to the press. 
. 
DFM KARASIN 
----------- 
 
3.  (C)  The Ambassador spoke with DFM Karasin three times 
following the September 3 incident.  In his conversations 
with Karasin, the Ambassador underlined the serious danger 
posed by this incident and urged the GOR to do all that it 
could to avoid its repetition.  Moscow needed to stress to 
the South Ossetians that they must exercise restraint. 
 
4.  (C)  Karasin acknowledged that the Russian government 
understood the incident was a serious matter.  He said there 
was a need by all sides to avoid "political and emotional 
reactions" until the facts were clear.  He appreciated U.S. 
efforts to urge restraint.  In a later conversation, Karasin 
was mildly apologetic about statements to the Russian press 
made by Ambassador Popov and reaffirmed that Russia 
understood that the shooting had created a serious situation. 
 
5.  (C)  The German Ambassador told the Ambassador September 
6 that Germany's Ambassador-at-Large for the Caucasus had 
also urged DFM Karasin in meetings here to use Moscow's 
influence with the South Ossetians to lower tensions and 
prevent the shooting incident from spinning out of control. 
The British and French Ambassadors also said on September 6 
that they would soon be approaching the Foreign Ministry with 
similar messages.  (Note:  The Germans also warned Karasin 
against trying to include language about the Kodori Gorge 
operation in the upcoming rollover of the UNOMIG mandate.  In 
turn, Karasin signaled Russian opposition to the deployment 
of civilian police in Gali.  End Note.) 
. 
MFA CIS DIRECTOR KELIN 
---------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  Russian MFA 4th CIS (Caucasus) Department Director 
Andrey Kelin told us in a September 5 meeting that Russia saw 
the helicopter "incursion" and the shooting as "gross 
violations" of the rules governing military activity in the 
Zone of Conflict (ZOC).  Tracing the supposed route of the 
helicopter's flight on a large wall map, Kelin argued that 
the helicopter had looped around a large area in the ZOC and 
had not just incidentally crossed over the ZOC en route to 
western Georgia.  He said the flight was a clear 
demonstration by Georgia designed to provoke a reaction from 
South Ossetian forces.  As an aside, he claimed it was not 
even clear whether Georgian MOD Okruashvili was actually 
onboard the aircraft when the firing occurred. 
 
7.  (C)  We stressed U.S. concerns about the dangers posed by 
the shooting and reiterated the need for restraint, 
encouraging the GOR to urge the South Ossetians to take 
immediate steps to lower tensions.  Kelin acknowledged that 
the South Ossetians should use the JCC to register protests 
about alleged violations of prior agreements rather than 
 
MOSCOW 00009823  002 OF 002 
 
 
resort to force.  He said the Russian government had already 
told the South Ossetians they must exercise restraint, but he 
argued that Tskhinvali viewed the helicopter flight in the 
context of Georgian operations in the Kodori Gorge and 
Tbilisi's efforts to "sabotage" the Joint Control Commission. 
 
8.  (C)  Kelin said that the JCC was l
ikely to meet in 
mid-September, but the venue and exact dates had not been 
finalized and might be pushed off by the South Ossetians. 
Kelin was headed for Tbilisi on September 6 for a previously 
scheduled meeting with his Georgian MFA counterparts to 
discuss Georgia's interest in joining NATO.  According to 
Kelin, Georgia had taken the initiative to invite the 
Russians to discuss NATO.  Kelin was unaware of any plans for 
First DFM Denisov to meet with his counterpart or for 
Presidents Putin and Saakashvili to meet in the future. 
. 
NEXT STEPS 
---------- 
 
9.  (C)  Ambassador Popov told us September 6 that he still 
expected the JCC to meet soon, perhaps in Tskhinvali on 
September 13-14.  He had been discussing the timing of the 
next meeting with his Georgian counterpart, DFM Antadze, on 
September 3, shortly before hearing about the shooting.  He 
noted that he had not been in contact with Georgian officials 
since learning about the incident. 
 
10.  (C)  Popov said that the GOR obviously would raise the 
incident at the next JCC meeting, and said that once all 
sides were able to ventilate, he expected the JCC to focus on 
the "ambiguous" language in the 2002 protocol governing 
over-flights.  Popov acknowledged that protocolary language 
about "unauthorized" flights being a danger to peace begged 
the question since the JCC had never decided which authority 
would "authorize" flights.  He said the GOR was intensively 
studying this issue, but said Moscow was not inclined to 
accept Georgian claims that Tbilisi had complete control over 
the airspace over South Ossetia.  He argued that this was 
inconsistent with previous agreements and, if exercised, 
might lead to "a disaster." 
 
11.  (C)  In an earlier conversation, Georgian Political 
Counselor George Karlashvili told us that the JCC meeting was 
now likely to be held on September 14-16, but in Vladikavkaz, 
pending South Ossetian assent.  He said that First DFM 
Denisov was supposed to travel to Georgia by the end of 
September, but the MFA had not yet confirmed dates. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
12.  (C)  While initial MFA statements were unhelpful in 
lowering tensions, Russian officials clearly recognize that 
the shooting incident created a dangerous situation that 
could easily veer out of control.  We will continue to press 
Moscow to engage directly with the South Ossetians to lower 
tensions. 
BURNS

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