Russia: May 8, 2002


Georgia's defense minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze told the press on 7 May that security had dramatically improved in a roughest area of the former Soviet republic, even before the arrival of U.S. military trainers. Tevzadze, in Washington for bilateral talks at the Pentagon, thanked America for it's assistance. He also asserted that the Georgian government had no plans to use force to assert its control over the Black Sea province of Abkhazia.

Twenty-six American troops are in Georgia laying the groundwork for the $60 - 64 million assistance program for training, which will eventually involve 150 U.S. military advisors (as well as weapons, ammunition, fuel, construction equipment and other goods). Up to 2,000 police and troops from four infantry battalions are slated to be run through the anti-terrorism program.

Colonel Scott Thein, a member of the U.S. military team, told reporters on 2 May that American would not become involved in the internal security issues of Georgia. 
This was meant to reassure Abkhazia that the training of Georgian special-purpose units would not eventually haunt them.

There are some roadblocks for the American mission. On 6 May, Major General Vyacheslav Borisov told reporters that the use of the Gonio proving range for training the Georgians is out of the question. Borisov, commands the 12th Russian military base (which owns Gonio) near Batumi 

The Georgian-Abkhaz coordination council, operating under the UN auspices, met on 8 May to discuss joint patrolling in the Georgian part of the Kodori gorge from 3 to 5 May. During the patrols by Collective Peacekeeping Forces and UN military observers, they found 120 Georgian border guards, up to 300 local self-defense militiamen and an arms cache. However, Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Dzhergenia told Interfax-Military News Agency that the Georgian party wasn't contributing to destabilization in the upper part of the Kodori gorge. 

Georgian State Security Minister Valery Khaburzania expected guerilla units in the Pankisi Gorge to step up their activity. If guerillas tried to enter or exit the gorge, he vowed that Georgian law enforcement and security agencies would take proper measures. Khaburzania admitted ignorance as to whether Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelayev is in the Pankisi Gorge. - Adam Geibel

Shortages of money and fuel have prevented Russian air force pilots from flying the few hours in the air they are currently allowed. Through most of the 1990s, Russian combat pilots have averaged only about 20 hours a year (versus 20 hours a month in most NATO countries). The current shortages have pilots flying about an hour a month, barely enough to maintain minimal skills. Pilots sent to units in active service (as in Chechnya) have to first fly dozens of training hours just to get their skills back.

Meanwhile, flights that are made are not always for training purposes. The air force is investigating the circumstances of the crash of Mi-8 helicopter on May 7th. It seems that while the flight was logged as a training mission, eight of the (now dead) passengers were civilians who apparently paid the helicopter crew to take them up a snow covered mountain so the civilians could snowboard down. Such misappropriation of military property is quite common.


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