Batumi Shootout and Sochi 2014
We now have less than 150 days until the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. As the event gets closer, security fears are rising not just in Russia, but in neighboring countries as well. This past April, Georgia’s defense minister Irakli Alasania stated that the Georgian government was concerned that the Russian Government could accuse Georgia of being complicit should a terrorist attack take place. As a result, the Georgians said that they were doing everything possible to enhance security in their country [apsny.ge/2013/mil/1364934484.php].
In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he “was prepared to give Georgia a role in security at next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, which borders the Caucasus country’s breakaway region of Abkhazia” [en.rian.ru/sports/20130611/181618922/Putin-Ready-to-Give-Georgians-Olympic-Security-Role.html].
The following day, Georgia’s Foreign Minister said that Georgia was prepared to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to take a role in security at the Winter Olympics [http://en.ria.ru/world/20130612/181633162/Georgia-Accepts-Putins-Offer-for-Olympic-Security-Role.html].
However, I have neither seen nor read that this gesture of cooperation has gone beyond the statements made over the summer. In a short brief written in July, Tom De Waal wrote [http://carnegie.ru/eurasiaoutlook/?fa=52424&lang=en] that he believed the two countries were both concerned about the security situation, and but were working separately.
The Russians are alleged to have posted a list of names of people who they believed to be security threats to the Sochi Games. I have seen no evidence of this list, though I would appreciate any help if any of you know where I can get a copy.
At the same time, the Georgian authorities seem to have a list of their own. Two men are part of Georgia’s Greco-Roman wrestling junior team say they are on a list of alleged “Wahhabi extremists” kept by the Georgian security services. In August, wrestler Piruz Tsulukidze claimed that he was prevented from leaving Georgia to participate an event in Bulgaria due to his association with “Wahhabists”. In an interview given last week, Tsulukidze’s coach, Temur Bakhuntaradze, says he was detained twice by police in Batumi for proselytizing [http://www.ick.ge/articles/15781-i.html].
On Friday evening, the two men were detained along with a young man with a Russian passport [http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=26455]. The 3rd detainee, Yusuf Lakaev, is alleged to have entered Georgia illegally. The authorities claim they were informed of his presence in Batumi on Friday, September 13. During a routine document check, Mr Lakaev began shooting wildly. Before the police shot him, Lakaev managed to injure one policeman, and a bystander. None of the three people were seriously injured, but were taken to the hospital for observation.
When they raided the Georgians’ homes, police found one grenade, a home-made gun with a wooden grip, six different knives and two backpacks in military print colors [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0B2OZPR2zA]. This would seem to verify the police allegation that the two Georgian men were helping Mr Lakaev to cross into Turkey, where presumably he would have joined a group heading to Syria.
Fortunately, Friday’s shootout ended with only minor injuries. But without real cross-border cooperation, we may see more incidents like it in both Georgia and Russia.