Russia, Abkhazia Claim to Thwart Georgian-Chechen Olympics Terror Plot
The Russian and Abkhazian security services say they have broken up a Chechen-Georgian plot to carry out terrorist attacks against the Sochi Olympics. According to a report from the Abkhazian official news agency ApsnyPress, the leader of the "Abkhazian Jamaat," an organization affiliated with the Caucasus Emirate, was arrested and a cache of weapons uncovered in the Gudauta region of Abkhazia. The list of weapons Apsny provides is pretty substantial, and includes a variety of anti-aircraft weaponry and grenade launchers.
The operation was masterminded by the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, Doku Umarov, with "direct involvement" of the Georgian security services and their allies in Turkey, according to a statement by the Russian Antiterrorism Committee:
Russian Federal Security Service was able to establish that the militants were planning to move these weapons during the 2012-2014 to Sochi and to use them to commit terrorist acts before and during the Olympic Games. Russia managed security services at an early stage to prevent the thugs attempting to launch their criminal plans....
They [the weapons] were brought into Abkhazia from Georgia. According to operational data, their transfer to Russia directly involved the Georgian special services and allied representatives of illegal armed groups in Turkey. The ringleader of an international terrorist organization "Caucasus Emirate" Umarov, maintaining close ties with the Georgian special services, coordinated all the activities of the organization of delivery of the commission of terrorist acts in close proximity to Sochi and marking these caches.
The Antiterrorism Committee website also has a number of photos of the alleged cache.
Naturally, the Georgian government denied any involvement:
Shota Khizanishvili, the chief of staff at Georgia’s Interior Ministry, denied any links between Georgia and Mr. Umarov.
“I can only say that the National Anti-Terrorist Committee is staffed with people with peculiar fantasies,” Mr. Khizanishvili told the Associated Press. “They’re always trying to accuse Georgia and its secret services of everything in any situation and without any grounds. This is a sign of severe paranoia.”
There is ample room for skepticism in this report. If Georgia were plotting something like this, why would they have cached the weapons in Abkhazia, rather than in Russia or in Georgia proper? Regional analyst Michael Cecire tweeted that "Real story behind terror plot against #Sochi2014 isnt #Tbilisi blame game, but that #Caucasus emirate is building a safe haven in #Abkhazia" and "#Sochi2014 terror: #Tbilisi government almost def not responsible, contra #Kremlin, but support to Circassian natlsts unhelpful," which seems right -- assuming we take Russia's word for it that there really was an arms cache, and that Umarov was responsible, and that this wasn't some sort of pretext. Still, North Caucasian militants certainly have an interest in disrupting the Sochi games, and the relatively uncontrolled space of Abkhazia could conceivably be a handy staging ground, just a few miles away. This is certainly not the end of this story.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.