Eurasia Daily Monitor – 04/06/2005

The Jamestown Foundation
Wednesday, April 6, 2005 — Volume 2, Issue 67

*FBI closes investigation of Georgian prime minister’s death
*CIS leader insists Russian troops not involved in Kyrgyz uprising
*Niyazov nixes new Russian ambassador as relations cool further
*Is Moscow organizing an anti-GUAM alliance?



The mysterious death of Georgia’s Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania
continues to worry many Georgians because the investigation has yet to
fully clarify the circumstances. Zhvania was found dead on February 3
at the home of Raul Usupov, who was about to become deputy governor of
Shida Kartli region (see EDM, February 3).

Specialists from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
included in the inquiry at the request of the Georgian government,
held a news conference April 1 to announce their findings. Bryan
Paarmaan, representing the FBI, and Giorgi Janashia, deputy
prosecutor-general of Georgia, told journalists that there was no
evidence indicating that Zhvania was murdered. Instead, Zhvania and
Usupov died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to an improperly
installed gas heater. Toxicology reports indicated that blood levels
of carboxihemoglobin were 72% for Zhvania and 74% for Usupov.

Independent Georgian forensic experts immediately questioned this
conclusion. Maia Nikoleishvili said that Georgian investigators
initially reported carboxihemoglobin blood levels at 60.9% for Zhvania
and 73% for Usupov. She explained that the percentages should not be
recorded as an odd number in this specific case, a blunder that the
FBI specialists corrected. She also said that it is not difficult to
fake poisoning by carbon monoxide. Nikoleishvili said she will not
reveal her conclusions about the case because, “Life in this country
becomes increasingly dangerous.”

However, relatives and close confidants of both men refuse to stay
quiet. State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Issues Giorgi
Baramidze, who is spearheading an independent investigation into
Zhvania’s death, said, “None of the versions should be ruled out.”
Baramidze added, “Zhvania’s closest friends know much detailed
information regarding Zurab.”

On April 4, Zhvania’s family broke their silence and expressed their
distrust of the FBI’s conclusion and the formal investigation in
general. Goga Zhvania, Zurab’s brother, said that Zhvania’s relatives
have many questions for the investigators. “We have refrained from
any comments until now because information was still being
collected. But now, after publicizing the FBI conclusion, we can
afford to make some comments,” he said.

Goga Zhvania doubts that the FBI’s investigation accurately recreated
the death scene. “It’s still a question whether they [Zhvania and
Usupov] died in that apartment.” He referred to the findings of the
national forensics bureau, which did not detect fresh fingerprints
from either Zhvania or Usupov in the apartment. He said that his
brother had a specific manner of smoking and that none of the
cigarette stubs found in the room fit that pattern. According to Goga
Zhvania, the cigarette stubs were collected from the trash, not an
ashtray, which he finds troubling.

Goga Zhvania recalled that his brother was quite sensitive to the
smell of natural gas and frequently ventilated rooms. Therefore, he
said, it seemed unlikely that Zurab had not opened a single window in
the ill-fated apartment. Goga did admit that his brother had several
confidentially rented apartments where he usually held private
meetings with various politicians. The apartments, according to him,
changed about every two months. The apartment where Zhvania died had
been rented by one his bodyguards.

Goga Zhvania said his brother had many enemies and there had been
information about plots against him, although he did not take them
seriously. He said that Zurab was terribly careless with his personal
security. He suggested that rival clan interests might have been
behind the prime minister’s death.

He confirmed that the Zhvania family is conducting an independent
investigation while waiting for the final report from the Prosecutors’
Office. He further denied allegations that authorities had installed a
guard at Zurab’s grave to hinder the possible exhumation of the corpse
for an independent forensic examination. “We don’t want to hamper the
investigation, but if it drags on we will tell much because we know
pretty much,” he stressed. Meanwhile, Goga Zhvania condemned “some
officials” for disseminating, as he said, “dirty gossip” about Zurab.
He also denied media allegations that Zhvania’s family plans to leave

“They have merely removed him,” Elene Tevdoradze, another close ally
of Zhvania from parliament, told Imedi-TV. Tevdoradze said that the
recently published findings of FBI have not changed her initial view
about the cause of Zhvania’s death. Tevdoradze alleged that Minister
of Interior Vano Merabishvili was strongly urged to immediately label
Zhvania’s death an accident, without any investigation. “When he
[Merabishvili] made this statement he was in shock. I know this
because I talked to him,” Tevdoradze claimed. Analysts argue that only
a top-level official could order Merabishvili to make such a

Georgian top officials remain tight-lipped about Zhvania’s
death. Meanwhile, members of Zhvania’s team are finding more
difficulties. Against the backdrop of the rekindled passions
surrounding Zhvania’s death, no one has noticed that the Armstrong
Holding Company has lost its contract for privatization of Georgian
Ocean Steam Navigation. The company, which Zhvania reportedly actively
advocated, turned out to be insolvent. Some analysts tend to link
Zhvania’s death both with ongoing controversial privatization process
and political motives.

(TV-202, March 28; Inter-Press, Kavkasia Press, TV-Rustavi-2, Regnum,
April 1; Khvalindeli Dge, Civil Georgia, Resonance, April 2;
TV-Rustavi-2, TV-Imedi, Resonance, 24 Hours, April 4;, April

–Zaal Anjaparidze


Russia’s military presence in Central Asia has come into focus again
through its participation in the Rubezh 2005 military exercises
involving participants from the Commonwealth of Independent
States. Although in itself there is nothing unusual about this
exercise, the involvement of Russian air force units deployed at Kant
airbase in Kyrgyzstan has drawn denials from senior Russian military
personnel about the existence of any plan or potential role to curb
the recent Kyrgyz revolution.

The exercise, held April 2-6 in neighboring Tajikistan, witnessed the
use of most Russian personnel at Kant as well as Su-24 bombers, Su-25
attack planes, and Su-27 fighters. Nonetheless, the continued presence
of Russian military personnel in Kyrgyzstan gives Moscow a clear stake
in the future of the country while keenly avoiding any appearance of
meddling in Kyrgyz internal affairs.

Vladimir Mikhailov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force,
pointed to the importance of the Kant airbase in holding the
long-planned military exercises. In addition to the anti-terrorist
elements of the exercise, the participants also carried out a command
staff exercise of the CIS Unified Air Defense System. According to
Mikhailov, such preparedness remains an essential part of the Russian
military presence in Kyrgyzstan. Yet doubts remain over the role of
the Russian base during the recent revolution and in its mixed signals

Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty
Organization (CSTO), issued a strenuous denial of any possible Russian
military involvement at any stage in the crisis. He categorically
ruled out considering the use of force in order to protect the Akayev
regime. “I personally approached [President Askar] Akayev and asked
him to grant permission for my arrival there in order to assess the
situation and work out some proposals for the CSTO as regards to
putting political pressure on the situation in Kyrgyzstan.” Akayev
apparently refused, in what has been regarded by his Russian
counterparts as a failure to appreciate the serious nature of the

Moreover, Bordyuzha denied that any Russian military aviation
transited through the airbase during the crisis, either to increase
numerical strength at the base or evacuate key Kyrgyz
officials. Reports that indicated a theoretical risk to the base as
marchers moved towards Kant on March 25-26 were a misunderstanding,
owing to the intention of the people to reach industrial facilities in
Kant rather than target the Russian base.

Bordyuzha evidently wants to dispel any suggestion that the Russian
military presence in Kyrgyzstan may ignite Russian military
involvement in the internal politics of that country. His view,
reflecting that of many within Russian political and security circles,
presents an impression of a benevolent Russia advocating peace in the
midst of political turmoil.

These and other statements emerging from Moscow suggest a cautious
handling of the change of power in Bishkek, a restraint singularly
lacking in previous examples of such turmoil in the former Soviet
Union. One key distinction is the lack of any credible evidence of an
“anti-Russian” element in the political opposition in
Kyrgyzstan. Moscow’s policy is also influenced by the fear that the
anarchy that followed the political collapse of Akayev’s regime may
denote an even more unstable situation; the potential risk of clan
divisions and trouble in Osh region spreading to neighboring
Uzbekistan, combined with the activities of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and other
Islamic elements. remain concerns for the Kremlin. Russia therefore
appears intent on taking the position of peace advocate, eschewing any
appearance of favoring any party or being presented as an external
power vying for its own interests. Bordyuzha, in this sense at least,
wanted to reassure his Kyrgyz associates that regardless of the
descent into the abyss, Russia cannot afford to become militarily
involved in separating conflicting parties in an internal Kyrgyz

The continuation of instability and uncertainty over Bakiyev’s ability
to stabilize the country may justify Moscow’s stance. Three
commissions are being formed in order to investigate the causes of the
March 24 events in Kyrgyzstan. One parliamentary commission comprised
of Omurbek Tekebayev, Dzhantoro Satybaldiyev, Tashkul Kereksizov,
Temir Sariyev, Sadyr Dzhaparov, Kadyrdzhan Batyrov, and Duyshon
Chotonov has been set up to examine the events.

As the Kyrgyz authorities themselves show difficulties in coming to
terms with the regime change, Bakiyev merely offers parliamentary
commissions and various investigations into the mechanics of
revolution, while addressing some concerns of the protesters such as
the nature of corruption in local appointments under the old
regime. The coordination council of Kyrgyz law-enforcement agencies
has decided to reinforce the Ministry of Internal Affairs
investigative group by providing additional investigators from the
Drug Control Agency, Customs Service, and Financial Police. These
investigations are grappling with same issue, namely how mass riots
spread so quickly and how the various security agencies handled the

Moscow fears that the disorder following the collapse of the Akayev
regime may spread throughout Central Asia. Already overstretched by
its military commitment in Chechnya, the Kremlin cannot face the
prospect of an unstable Central Asia, with limited resources available
to reduce the risk of further trouble. The specter of Kyrgyzstan as an
island of instability rather than democracy is driving Moscow’s
cautious approach.

(Moskovsky komsomolets, March 26; Interfax, April 1; Kyrgyz Television
First Channel, April 2; RTR Russia TV, April 3; Kabar News Agency,
April 3)

–Roger N. McDermott


Russia has been courting Turkmenistan’s authoritarian regime in an
apparent attempt to secure its energy interests in the gas-rich
Central Asian state. However, the pursuit has been dealt a number of
setbacks recently.

In the wake of regime change in Kyrgyzstan, Russian President Vladimir
Putin and his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, held telephone
consultations on March 30, reportedly discussing bilateral energy
issues and “regional” problems. Officially, events in Kyrgyzstan were
not discussed, as the two leaders focused on economic issues. Yet
despite Russian efforts to achieve a measure of detente between Russia
and Turkmenistan, Niyazov remains defiant.

Notably, on March 12, Turkmen authorities expelled RIA-Novosti
reporter Viktor Panov, who was handcuffed, brought to the Ashgabat
airport, and put a plane bound for Russia. As Panov reportedly had
dual citizenship in Turkmenistan, his expulsion, allegedly on
espionage charges, came as a blow to Moscow’s attempts to maintain a
semblance of mutual understanding with Ashgabat.

Moreover, in late March Niyazov reportedly refused to accept Ramazan
Abdulatipov, a member of the Federation Council, as Russia’s new
ambassador to Ashgabat. In a gesture described by Russian media
outlets as a “slap in Moscow’s face,” Niyazov insisted on a career
Russian diplomat for Ashgabat, while Abdulatipov, an experienced
politician and former cabinet minister, reportedly will be re-assigned
as ambassador to Tajikistan.

Until recently, Russia had repeatedly voiced concern over alleged
discrimination against ethnic Russians in Turkmenistan. Around 100,000
Russian-speakers were believed to hold dual citizenship in
Turkmenistan. In April 2003, Turkmenistan revoked a dual-citizenship
agreement signed in 1993 and residents who hold both Turkmen and
Russian citizenship were given two months to choose one or the other.

It is widely believed that Moscow agreed to cancel the dual
citizenship agreement in exchange for a major gas deal. In April 2003,
Niyazov traveled to Moscow and signed a framework agreement on gas
cooperation as well as a 25-year contract on gas supplies to
Russia. Niyazov pledged to supply up to 100 billion cubic meters of
gas to Russia from 2010 onward or a total of 2 trillion cubic meters
over 25 years. Russia would pay Turkmenistan $44 per 1,000 cubic
meters, 50% in barter and 50% in cash. Niyazov claimed that the deal
would bring Turkmenistan $200 billion and $300 billion to Russia.

Last December, Turkmenistan halted gas supplies to Russia. Niyazov
reportedly explained the move by “Turkmenistan’s national interests.”
Ashgabat reportedly demanded $60 per 1,000 cubic meters. In early
January, Turkmenistan announced that gas supplies to Russia had
resumed, but reportedly failed to deliver. On February 11, the Russian
Foreign Ministry had to dismiss media allegations that Turkmenistan
had declared a “gas war” on Russia. In February 2005, Gazprom CEO
Alexei Miller traveled to Ashgabat twice, but a bilateral gas deal
remains elusive (see EDM, January 12, February 11).

On March 30, Putin reportedly informed Niyazov that Miller is due in
Ashgabat April 13-15 to hold yet another round of talks. It remains to
be seen whether Russia and Turkmenistan will manage to solve their
unprecedented price dispute.

The Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom needs Turkmen gas to make up
for the shortages created by its export commitments to Ukraine and its
West European customers. Gazprom’s annual shortfall in supplying the
Russian domestic market has been estimated at 30-40 billion cubic
meters. Therefore, the oil and gas pipeline game seems to have an
immediate importance for Moscow, while other aspects of the Caspian
settlement appear to be less time-sensitive.

As a part of its drive to control the Caspian hydrocarbon riches,
Russia has also suggested creating a group of Central Asian natural
gas producers, presumably around the nexus of its gas pipelines
leading to Western European markets. However, this grouping remains a
daring vision rather than a realistic plan (see EDM, March 24).

By clinching the deal to buy virtually all of Turkmenistan’s gas,
Moscow hoped to outmaneuver the trans-Afghan pipeline plan. Facing
Russia’s reluctance to review the gas deal, the Foreign Ministry of
Turkmenistan has reiterated that the construction of a $3.3 billion
gas pipeline to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan is due to start in

Turkmenistan is the largest natural-gas producer in Central Asia. Its
hydrocarbon reserves are estimated at more than 80 billion barrels
(some 11 billion tons) of crude and 5.5 trillion cubic meters of
gas. Turkmenistan plans to attract up to $26 billion worth of foreign
investment in its oil and gas sector by 2020.

Turkmenistan has pledged to sign a major deal with a consortium of
Russian oil and gas companies to develop offshore oil fields in
Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea “in the near future.” The Russian
oil consortium Zarit — which includes state-owned firms Rosneft and
Zarubezhneft and gas trader Itera — hoped to sign a production
sharing agreement (PSA). The 25-year agreement would involve four oil-
and gas-rich blocs in the southern part of the Caspian shelf near the
Iranian border.

Zarit was registered in May 2002 in Moscow as a joint venture between
Rosneft, Itera’s subsidiary Gazkhiminvest (each controls 37% of
Zarit), and Zarubezhneft, which holds the remaining 26% stake. The
consortium aims to attract Turkmen state-owned Turkmenneft and
Turkmenneftegaz, as well as Iranian firms, to take part in the
project. In December 2003, the Turkmen government put off signing the
PSA, while no reasons for delay were disclosed. Itera had pledged to
start drilling at the offshore blocks in 2004, but the deal has yet to

Russia has had significant expectations connected with future energy
ties with Turkmenistan. So far, these high hopes are yet to be
realized, while Turkmen authoritarian leader Niyazov seemingly makes
it clear that Moscow should not expect any concessions from him.

–Sergei Blagov


The self-styled “ministers of foreign affairs” of Transnistria and
Abkhazia, Valery Litskay and Sergei Shamba, along with South Ossetia’s
“permanent representative” to Russia, Dmitry Medoev, held a tripartite
meeting and talks with Russian officials on April 3-4 in Moscow. On
March 30, Transnistria’s “president” Igor Smirnov and “state security
minister” Vladimir Antyufeyev had also held talks with officials in
Moscow. The April 3-4 conclave was the third of its kind in Moscow
this year, and it prepared for a meeting of the secessionist
“presidents,” tentatively scheduled for the second half of April in

Concurrently with the Moscow meeting of his proteges, Russian
President Vladimir Putin scheduled a meeting on April 2 in Sochi with
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and the Abkhaz and South
Ossetian “presidents,” Sergei Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoiti. “The format
is reminiscent of a summons to Communist Party Central Committee
Secretaries of Soviet republics,” Saakashvili commented in turning
down Putin’s invitation (Rustavi-2 TV, April 3).

In an affront to the European Union, the secessionist conclaves in
Moscow were timed to overlap with the EU-Russia Partnership Council
ministerial session, held on April 1 in Luxembourg, preparatory to the
EU-Russia summit. The Luxembourg session included discussion of the
“frozen conflicts,” which the EU intends henceforth to place on the
agenda of the EU-Russia dialogue. In that context, the Moscow meetings
appeared designed to flaunt the ongoing creation and continuing
consolidation of faits accomplis by Russia.

The Moscow meeting participants unanimously called for continuation of
Russia’s “special role” as provider of peacekeeping troops, diplomatic
mediator, and guarantor of any political resolution to the frozen
conflicts. Shamba and Medoev called for continuing the preparations
for a meeting with Saakashvili to be held in Sochi under Putin’s

Regarding the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Commitments on Russian troop
withdrawal, Litskay served notice that Transnistria “does not
recognize the Istanbul Commitments, they are not ours.” While
conceding that those are Russia’s commitments, Litskay echoed Moscow’s
position that they are not binding and carry no deadline. He
reaffirmed Tiraspol’s known, “categorical opposition” to evacuation of
Russian arsenals from Transnistria, pending disbursement of
“compensation” to Tiraspol — a position that serves Moscow as an
excuse for not evacuating those arsenals, which in turn provide an
excuse for retaining the Russian troops to guard the arsenals. Litskay
was using arguments that the OSCE itself had handed to Moscow and
Tiraspol in the last three years.

Shamba asserted during this conference — as he had during the
previous one in March — Abkhazia’s claim of sovereign control over
“its territorial waters.” From Tbilisi, Georgia’s Border Guard
Department responded immediately that the claim was illegal and that
unchecked shipping bound for Sukhumi could be presumed to carry
contraband, possibly including drugs, arms, or gunmen.

Shamba and Medoev spoke of a “possible military alliance among the
unrecognized republics,” based on their experience in 2005, “which
demonstrated that we can dispatch armed detachments . . .. We count on
assistance from the fraternal North Caucasus peoples, as well as from
our allies Abkhazia and Transnistria.” They appeared emboldened by the
successful June 2005 operation, seen but condoned by the OSCE, when
some 2,000 volunteers from Transnistria, Kuban, and Abkhazia crossed
Russia’s territory to fight against Georgia in South Ossetia.

The Conference of “ministers of foreign affairs” of Transnistria,
Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Karabakh — a forum created in 2000, and
largely inactive since then — is expected to be raised to the
“presidential” level at the upcoming Sukhumi meeting. That meeting is
further expected to add some substance to a 1994 agreement on mutual
assistance among those four parties, including military assistance in
the event of conflict.

The Sukhumi meeting’s timing is planned to coincide with the GUAM
countries’ summit scheduled to be held in Chisinau on April 22. Moscow
continues irrationally to regard the GUAM group as a threat to
Russia’s interests, and the pro-Russian enclaves as a means to offset
that presumed threat. Some policy planners in Moscow propose stepping
up support for the secessionist enclaves as a form of pressure on the
GUAM member countries.

Thus an analysis by the Regnum agency — said to belong to Modest
Kolerov, recently appointed as the Kremlin’s coordinator for relations
with Russia’s “compatriots” and citizens beyond Russia’s borders —
argues: “The series of visits by Saakashvili in Kyiv and Chisinau, by
[Moldovan President Vladimir] Voronin in Kyiv, seek to lay the
groundwork for an economic blockade of the unrecognized republics and
for internationalization of peacekeeping contingents . . . In view of
the growing threat from the Georgia-Ukraine-Moldova group, which
focuses on undermining Russia’s influence in Russia’s own vicinity,
Russia is in a position to utilize the instrument of the
self-determining states.”

(Interfax, April 3, 4;, April 4; Regnum, March 28; see EDM,
January 28, March 18)

–Vladimir Socor

The Eurasia Daily Monitor, a publication of the Jamestown Foundation,
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