On 30 October Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili convened a special session of the National Security Council to discuss an incident near the patriot youth camp in the village of Ganmukhuri, on the Georgian-controlled side of administrative border of Abkhazia, which he described as a "criminal and bandit-like attack" by Russian peacekeepers against Georgian law-enforcers. After he personally arrived at the scene, Saakashvili declared Gen Sergey Chaban, the commander of the Collective Peacekeeping Force in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, persona non grata in Georgia and demanded that he leave the conflict zone, a move praised by the meeting's attendees. Saakashvili said that "a final decision" would have to be taken in regard to the peacekeepers' presence in Georgia and recalled a 2006 parliamentary resolution calling for their withdrawal. Several meeting participants noted that the incident would become a "special topic of discussion" for the international community and that extensive video footage captured of the incident fully corroborates Georgia's claims that the peacekeepers were at fault. Saakashvili also noted that the presence of a disproportionate number of ethnic Chechens serving as Russian peacekeepers was "incorrect and strange" and recalled the participation of late Chechen guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev on the side of separatist Abkhaz forces in the Georgian-Abkhaz war. The following the text of the meeting:
[Presenter] This is a special broadcast of "Kronika" [news programme]. At this moment the Georgian president [Mikheil Saakashvili] is chairing a special session of the Security Council. We go there live.
[Saakashvili, transmission begins mid-sentence] - the international community shared this position. [Parliament Speaker] Nino [Burjanadze] staked out a very good position on this camp and we have no intention to move the camp from there. Yet it has stuck in certain people's throats. This is why I took the decision - I was near the airport - to fly to Ganmukhuri on the presidential helicopter. For me the protection of this camp and standing by those who protect it was a matter of personal honour.
What we saw there exceeded all of my expectations and I am very outraged. What happened there was completely unacceptable. Without any provocation whatsoever, a large unit of Russian peacekeepers in armoured vehicles attacked a police unit whose function is to maintain and uphold order in society there. And incidentally, they are fulfilling this function brilliantly - since those policemen have been there, there have no longer been robberies or murders and the people have breathed a sigh of relief. Our policemen conducted themselves very honourably, as can be seen in the footage that was taken there. It was acknowledged that they are fulfilling a peaceful function there and no-one could possibly have any grievances against them.
Then, they were subjected to a truly criminal and bandit-like attack, they were disarmed, their hands were bound and they were beaten sadistically. I think that if military actions were under way now, this would have qualified as a war crime and as such, it would have been a purely criminal offence. And it was captured on video. No-one can tell us this time that we buried our own rocket somewhere [reference to the 6 August incident in which a missile was dropped near the village of Tsitelubani in central Georgia] or that we dreamt that our villages were bombed [reference to the aerial bombing and shelling of Georgian villages in Abkhazia's Kodori Gorge on the night of 11-12 March]. For the first time we will show the whole world footage of criminal acts being committed by these so-called peacekeepers.
I want to draw special attention to the heroic actions of Rustavi-2 [TV] journalist Ema Gogokhia in this situation. Truly, without any exaggeration, hers was a heroic act: she managed to protect this footage and broadcast and disseminate it while risking her life in the process. This girl was attacked and two brutes, two oafs, who rolled her around in the mud, but she still snatched the footage from them and brought it back.
I believe that the conclusion to be made given all of this is the following: First of all, we will not move the camp from there. Let no-one hope that we will do this. This is a peaceful camp and that have been no incidents there whatsoever. Next year the camp will become twice as big, perhaps even bigger, and many more people will go on holiday there. We will reinforce the security of the people in this zone and ultimately, on our demand, the UN Security Council has started reviewing the peace processes there. This will also touch on the peacekeepers' mandate. We will all have to take a final decision in this regard, everyone together. There are parliament resolutions and there is a diplomatic process - consultations with our friends. I think that we will take correct decisions and that we will take significant steps forward in the interests of Georgia and of peace.
I declared today that General Chaban is an undesirable person in Georgia and that he must leave Georgia. He is currently in Sukhumi. Sukhumi is Georgia and he must leave Georgian territory. We support the peace process and we will continue in the future to undertake consistent and decisive actions to return the refugees, restore peace and protect Georgia's territorial integrity.
[To Burjanadze] Nino, would you like to say something?
[Burjanadze] You already said everything in connection with today's incident. It was indeed an unimaginable fact. It was not unimaginable for us, as we have had such facts in Georgia on a lot of occasions on peacekeepers' part. However, it has often been difficult for our friends to believe our grievances. It is very important that the footage does exist. It is very important that our policemen behaved in such a worthy manner. I think that everyone, any soldier who is in Georgia, even if he is here with the status of peacekeeper, should realize full well once and for all that no one will be forgiven for damaging Georgia's interests, for any illegal action, or for lifting his hand against any civilian, policeman, or soldier. This is very important. I am sure that this fact should become a topic of special discussion for our friends and all international organizations and it is natural that appropriate reaction should follow these actions. This is what I wanted to say. We have seen once more what real purposes Russian peacekeepers are serving in Georgia and that they are not peacekeepers and they are not neutral, which is not a surprise for us, but I think this was confirmed once again with an example that is clear and obvious for everyone.
[Gela Bezhuashvili, foreign minister] This fact will definitely become an issue of serious discussion in international organizations. Within the coming couple of days, we intend to inform the local diplomatic corps and organize briefings in international organizations in order to clarify to everyone what happened and [help them] draw appropriate conclusions. We will continue to work in the United Nations to revise the peacekeeping process. This process has already started following your speech at the [UN] General Assembly [on 26 September] , but I think that this fact makes it clear once more that our position was absolutely correct and the reaction from the international community was appropriate for that time, and I hope that it will be equally appropriate in the future too.
[Saakashvili] I think that Georgian citizens in general and residents of Samegrelo [the western Georgian region where the incident took place] should remain very calm. We have all the necessary resources. We have decided to protect the area to the end. I would like to tell refugees from Abkhazia: the time of our return to Abkhazia will come very soon. I am absolutely sure of that, and no force, even most negative in the world and in the neighbourhood, will be able to stop the process.
I would also like to say that it is up to every country to decide who should serve in its army, but I think it is incorrect and strange that a large number of ethnic Chechens have been brought to Abkhazia as peacekeepers. I met these people today. We do not have anything to divide with the Chechens. However, to say the truth, all this has a smell of a provocation. If anyone believes that 1992 [when volunteer fighters from Chechnya and other North Caucasus republics fought against Georgia in the Georgian-Abkhaz war] will be repeated, they should also recall where Shamil Basayev [who also fought in Abkhazia, held the post of Abkhaz defence minister, and the title of the hero of Abkhazia] returned later and what problems he created. How can the same people fall into the same pit for a second time? It was absolutely beyond my understanding today that a significant part of the [peacekeeping] contingent were ethnic Chechens. I would like to repeat once more: they are Russian citizens, they may have anyone serving in their army, but I do not think that their emergence in Abkhazia can serve Russia's interests. We met these people warmly. Let us say that we remember a lot of bad things from them [Chechens] too, but we never keep bad things in mind for a long time. However, everyone should remember that this is not the Georgia of 1992. This is not some Bantustan where one can walk about as he likes. I think the results of their [Chechens'] being dispatched to Georgia for the first time [in 1992] should have been a good lesson for those people in [Russia's] military leadership who dispatched them [now too]. We want warm relations with the Chechens. Close relations. We do not want confrontation and problems. And I think everybody saw today that the Georgian police - law-enforcement acted very efficiently, very speedily, decisively and courageously. And this will always be so.
[Kote Kemularia, Security Council secretary] Mr President, I would like to note regarding Gen Chaban that it was absolutely right that we drew attention to him. We are all familiar with the report he submitted to the so-called CIS Council and it could be said that the report contained an admission in advance that such violent acts of provocation would take place. Some of the actions that took place today had virtually been described in advance. Therefore, I think this attitude should be declared officially and the issue of his leaving Georgian territory should indeed be raised.
[Saakashvili] The issue has already been raised officially. I said this and I am not going to recant my words.
[Vano Merabishvili, interior minister, addressing Saakashvili] In accordance with your command, the policemen who distinguished themselves [during the operation in Ganmukhuri], as well as those who were taken hostage and sustained physical damage will be nominated [for state awards].
[Saakashvili] As far as I know - and I saw it in the footage - they acted very courageously and in accordance with all their instructions.
[Merabishvili] Yes. And those who took active part in the operation will be nominated for appropriate awards.
[Bezhuashvili] I would like to add to what Mr Kote [Kemularia] said concerning Chaban that, legally speaking, he has no mandate whatsoever at the moment because at the council of the CIS foreign ministers in Dushanbe [on 4-5 October] Georgia did not give consent that he be given a legitimate status of any kind as a commander. His presence here is illegal. He is a Russian army general. He is not a peacekeeping commander, legally speaking, and certainly all documents have already been prepared today through which we have asked, or to be more precise, demanded that the Russian side ensures that this man leave Georgian territory.
[Saakashvili] All right, let us now go and attend to our business. [Remainder of the session closed to the media]
Translated by BBC Monitoring