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The citizens of Georgia and the Georgian armed forces in the war in the Donbass
Material posted: Publication date: 21-10-2016
The logic of military confrontations of the last decades is the high level of involvement in wars and armed conflicts of varying intensity, broad-spectrum non-state actors: volunteers, mercenaries, rebels, etc. In this regard, the war in the South-East of Ukraine is no exception. Despite the fact that in the fall of 2014, she soon took on the character position, on both sides of the conflict in varying degrees, the bet was made on the centralization of command and pushing off from participation in hostilities irregulars representatives of other States have not disappeared.

Since the beginning of armed confrontation in the South-East of Ukraine has repeatedly appeared on news reports and analytical materials devoted to participation in the conflict on the side of Kiev citizens of foreign countries, among which special attention is, among other things, was given to representatives of Georgia. In recent months, the number of informational messages contain information about the Georgian formations in the Ukrainian ATO forces have further increased [1]. This is partly due to a new round of escalation in the conflict zone, and information warfare around held on 8 October 2016 the elections in Georgia, a noticeable destabilizing effect on who gave the current Governor of the Odessa region Mikhail Saakashvili. However, the available facts indicate serious involvement in the operation of the APU and the National guard of former Georgian military, including senior. In this regard, the aim of this work is to assess the level of participation of citizens of Georgia in the Donbas war from the point of view of security and interests of Russia.

With the development of the conflict in the South-East of Ukraine an increasingly prominent role in the fighting, directly or indirectly, began to play Georgia. We are not talking only about civilians and activities of the former leaders of the Georgian state, the most notable of which is its former President – M. N. Saakashvili - but also about the soldiers involved in the confrontation, as well as the representatives of the Georgian special services. The Ukrainian side in the information space presents the situation with the participation of Georgians in the war as "payback" for the support of the Georgian forces forces "UNA-UNSO" during the war in Abkhazia in the 1990-ies. Despite the fact that the Ukrainian media claim that the Georgians involved in the conflict, act solely in the composition of the ATO forces, the citizens of Georgia fighting on both sides [2]. According to information from open sources, a significant number of Georgians are on the side of the militia. This includes both ethnic Georgians from the local community or have Russian citizenship and who arrived from Russia, and directly on the citizens of Georgia [3]. Persons with Georgian citizenship represented mainly by solitary volunteers. They are not a cohesive force and Georgian units in the DNI and LC no. It should be noted that in the national republics the practice of creating ethnic groups, and in the past were not common, and after taking a course on the construction of the armed forces on a professional basis and all came to naught.

The participation of Georgian citizens on the side of ATO forces in different time periods was estimated at 100 people, and the number of ethnic Georgians on both sides of the conflict, according to Georgian military expert Irakli Aladashvili, estimated to be about 300 [4]. Unlike the Georgians who are fighting on the side of the militia, the battalions and units of the ATO forces, they act not only as ordinary soldiers but occupy command positions, perform the task of training the personnel of the APU and machardie. Sending Georgian citizens to Ukraine, presumably, was carried out in different time periods in two main channels: 1. directly from Georgia through the organization "Free zone", headed by Gela Vasadze, closely associated with President Mikheil Saakashvili and his party "United national movement"; 2. From Finland, under the mediation of Gocha Bahia (former head of security Zviad Gamsakhurdia), who is hiding in this country. The main task of Bahia was at the initial stage of coordination and direction in the conflict zone, including representatives of the Georgian Diaspora in Europe. Radical nationalist movement in Georgia is represented by the figure of the Dodo, Gugeshashvili, which had previously been one of the leaders of the paramilitary nationalist formation "Mkhedrioni" [5]. Gugeshashvili, judging by the Ukrainian media, serves as instructor, responsible for training in one of the Ukrainian battalions [6].

The only fully Georgian ethnic formation in Ukraine is the so-called "Georgian national Legion", commanded by Mamuka Mamulashvili (Chairman of the Union of veterans of the Abkhazian war). The number "Legion" is about 50 people. However, the number of individuals with Georgian citizenship is much lower, since the formation of the division was transferred to the ethnic Georgians living in Ukraine, members of the armed forces of the APU. In addition, according to the commander, the unit's pass service, including US citizens [7]. It should be noted that in February 2016, "Georgian national Legion" officially joined the 25-th separate mechanized infantry battalion "Kievan Rus" (part of the 54th mechanized brigade), becoming the first foreign formation, officially included in the APU[8]. "Georgian Legion" during the winter campaign of 2015 was acting at the direction of Lugansk. The open source materials indicate that the contacts and the previous military experience of the members of the "Georgian Legion" and other Georgian specialists involved to interact with the American party, which can use these connections as a secret, as well as one of the channels of delivery of various types of military and non-military aid to the Ukrainian authorities.

Citizens of Georgia are represented in the battalions "Azov" (up to 30 people), "Dnepr" (in different periods of time up to 5 persons – mainly the trainers), "Donbass" (10 people), "omega". Georgians, as a rule, do not perform the "dirty work", often involved in the management and planning of operations, rarely, but are involved in fire support, sabotage and reconnaissance groups only work with "their" weapons, many of them snipers (the battalion "Donbass" is not seen Georgian sniper pair).

Battalions and training centers are widely represented officers retirees the Georgian armed forces. So, General Giorgi Kalandadze (former chief of the Georgian General Staff) and Lieutenant-Colonel Irakli Kurasbediani (former head of the Intelligence Directorate J-2) was responsible for the preparation of the special forces – first in Mariupol, later in Mykolaiv. Colonel David Martiashvili headed the Georgian members of the battalion "Donbass". It should be noted that almost all of the above major commanders or heads associated with Mikhail Saakashvili and involved in its activities in Ukraine. In addition, retired Georgian military is mostly trained in NATO programs that, as noted above, creates for the countries of the Alliance - and especially the United States – not only an additional channel of information exchange, but also a lever of influence on the situation in the region to the detriment of the interests and security of the Russian Federation.

According to information from open sources, the trainees under the guidance of Kurasbediani get not only small, but the mountain training. Given the characteristics of the zone of combat operations in the South-East of Ukraine (no mountains) and taking into account the ethnic composition of the majority of trainees, this may indicate the presence of plans for combat operations in mountainous and wooded area that is primarily in the Caucasus. It is not excluded that the destructive activities of Mikhail Saakashvili, aimed at destabilizing the political situation in Georgia, to his return to Georgian politics, may include armed provocations on the territory of the Caucasian state. However, given the context, the Georgian military representatives of other ethnic groups, is also a high probability of the use of trained specialists in the Russian regions: the North Caucasus, Crimea.

The level of "military presence" of the Georgian experts-retirees illustrates a list of the names, positions and titles of some who moved to Ukraine citizens of Georgia. Besides the above mentioned General Kalandadze, as well as Lieutenant colonels, Kurasbediani and Martashvili this:

- Colonel Mamuka Abashidze (former head of the center for special operations and anti-terrorist center of Georgia, is currently instructor training center "Patriot");

Colonel Merab Kikabidze (former Deputy Chief of the General staff of Georgia, now an instructor of the training center "Patriot");

- Colonel David Makishvili (instructor training center "Patriot");

- Giya Lordkipanidze (former Deputy interior Minister of Georgia, now a chief GU MVD of Odessa region);

Colonel Vano Nadiradze (Deputy commander of "Georgian Legion").

The list of former military in the senior and Junior officer ranks, that are currently operating in Ukraine, includes, according to various estimates, more than a dozen names. Each of the above shapes can have its own context, not only abroad but also in Ukraine. And there is the possibility to use the informal instructions of superior leadership. For example, one of the Georgian military has close ties with Adam Osmayev , the commander of the Chechen battalion named after Dzhokhar Dudayev. The Russian defense Ministry and intelligence agencies should take into account the factor of presence on the territory of Ukraine not only Georgian, but also Chechen, Crimean Tatar and other departments, declaring his aim to fight against Russia and its geopolitical course. The creation of sustainable organizational, financial and communication with respect to groups, leading a hidden and overt hostile activity against Russia is a potential threat to the security of the country in the context of the existence of risks of destabilization of the political situation. Georgian formation (in contrast to Crimean Tatar, Chechen and others) due to the presence of a significant number of military professionals are taking a more significant position among the other ethnic groups on the territory of Ukraine.

For seven months of the conflict in Donbas, the Georgian leadership has hardly touched the issue of participation of its citizens in the war. However, at the end of 2014 under the pressure of some of the facts was forced to take a stand on this issue. The reason for this was the death of 18 Dec 2014 once the citizen of Georgia Alexander Grigolashvili (battalion "Aydar") in the operation of the ATO. The Georgian foreign Ministry and the then Minister of justice Thea Tsulukiani made statements condemning the participation of Georgian citizens in foreign armed conflicts. While Tsulukiani noted that the process of writing the article in the penal code criminalizing participation of citizens in illegal armed groups abroad [9]. These changes were planned long ago: such practice exists in Azerbaijan. However, the pressure and discontent from the opposition on this issue forced the then Deputy interior Minister Levan Izoria (now the Minister of defence of Georgia) speak later explaining that this article will not apply to persons who are fighting on the side of the officially recognized authorities. This constitutes a concession to the most nationalist forces, putting a de facto outside the law of war participants on the side of DND and LNR and "legalizing" fighters ATO with a Georgian passport, causing indirectly damage the interests of Russia.

29 may 2015, the Georgian Parliament adopted at the 2nd hearing of the Bill on participation in illegal armed groups. The crossing of this step, probably due to pressure from the United States who are interested in stopping the flow of Georgian citizens from the Pankisi gorge to Iraq and Syria to participate in hostilities on the side of ISIS. However, in the document there are a number of exemptions related to ambiguity of the official position of Tbilisi on the issue of the participation of Georgians on the side of Kiev in the conflict in the South-East, as mentioned above. While in the Service of state security of Georgia consider individuals fighting on the side of ATO as a threat to the state in the event of their return. A large part of Georgian participants in the war on the side of Kiev – representatives of nationalist movements, or they are somehow connected with Mikheil Saakashvili, leading the destructive subversive activities in the hope to regain power, which is particularly evident during the October elections.

The participation of ethnic groups and, in General, citizens of foreign States in the conflict in the South-East, despite the strengthening of the Ukrainian armed forces, is becoming more common practice. The adoption in November 2015 of the law allowing foreign citizens to perform military service in the Ukrainian army[10], as well as the legalization of the "Georgian national Legion" members of the armed forces reflect the tendency of the involvement (both direct and indirect) in the war in the Donbass increasing number of foreign players. Thus, the establishment of a legislative and case law database forms the basis for the rapid involvement of foreign military assistance and specialists in case of escalation of the conflict.

Georgian citizens participate on both sides of the conflict in the South-East of Ukraine, but the vast majority are involved on the side of ATO forces and partly organized around the figure of the Governor of the Odessa region Mikhail Saakashvili. Unlike many other ethnic groups involved in the war on the side of the Ukrainian government, represented by senior Georgian military and even higher (General Kalandadze) officers. Given their experience, education, and connection with the military representatives of the countries-members of NATO – especially the United States – the Georgian formations in the short term will continue to be used as a major lever of influence and communication channel to the American side in the region to the detriment of Russia's interests.

The activities of Mikhail Saakashvili and former military officers must be the subject of study of the state security Service of Georgia, given the presence of nationalist groups of the Georgians on the side of ATO forces, which are a potential threat to the internal security of the country. Legislative measures in this direction are hampered by a serious support base among the warring on the side of Kiev nationalists, supporters of Saakashvili and other anti-Russian forces. Possible plans for conducting subversive activities to the detriment of the Russian Federation may, among other things, include diversions on objects of infrastructure in Georgia, as evidenced, for example, an attempt in August of 2016 to commit a terrorist attack on a gas pipeline connecting Russia and Armenia[11]. Despite the fact that the parliamentary elections of 2016 in Georgia showed that the potential of Saakashvili to destabilize the situation in the country and in the region is overrated, his destructive activities, backed up by the presence in his entourage of military professionals, remains on the list of potential threats to Russia's policy in Transcaucasia.



  1. The OSCE mission noted in the Donbass Georgian mercenaries // Information from the website of IA "Regnum" <>
  2. Georgy Kalatozishvili, Georgia: whose sons are fighting in the Ukraine? // Article on the website "Kavpolit" <>
  3. Another Georgian citizen killed in Ukraine // Information from the site "Georgia online" <>
  4. Combat losses in a foreign war // the Article on the newspaper's website "Echo of the Caucasus" <>
  5. In Georgia discuss the participation of citizens in the conflict in Ukraine // Information from the website of "Radio liberty" <>
  6. D. Gorski, Colonel of the Georgian army, leaving his family, came to the ATO zone to train Ukrainian volunteers // Article on the website of the newspaper "Facts and comments" <>
  7. The commander of "Georgian Legion" Mamuka Mamulashvili, the Americans will legally participate in hostilities in Ukraine/ Interview in the online edition of "Commander in chief" <"gruzinskogo-legiona"-mamuka-mamulashvili-amerikantsy-budut-legalno-uchastvovat-v-boevyh-dejstvijah-v-ukraine.html>
  8. "Georgian Legion" became part of the 25th mechanized infantry battalion "Kievan Rus" Armed forces of Ukraine // information from the website of "Gordon" <>
  9. Yuri rocks the Georgian legionaries outlawed // Article on the website "Kavpolit" <>
  10. Poroshenko allowed foreigners to serve in the army on a contract basis // information from the website of "RIA Novosti Ukraine" <>
  11. SGB Georgia stopped a terrorist attack on a gas pipeline to Armenia // Information from the website of the "Georgia online" <>

V. Neelov

Tags: war , Ukraina

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