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Classified report: Russia tied to blast at U.S. embassy

Supports local findings

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a classified report late last year that Russia's military intelligence was responsible for a bomb blast that occurred at an exterior wall of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, in September.

The highly classified report about the Sept. 22 incident was described to The Washington Times by two U.S. officials who have read it. They said the report supports the findings of the Georgian Interior Ministry, which traced the bombing to a Russian military intelligence officer.

The Times reported last week that Shota Utiashvili, director of information and analysis for the Georgian Interior Ministry, said the embassy blast and others in his country were the work of a Russian military intelligence officer named Maj. Yevgeny Borisov.

"It is written without hedges, and it confirms the Georgian account," said one U.S. official familiar with the U.S. intelligence report.

This official added that it specifically says the Russian military intelligence, or GRU, coordinated the bombings.

Another official who read a three-page summary of the report said it mentions Maj. Borisov once and connects him to the bombings.

Yevgeny Khorishko, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington, dismissed the Georgian charges last week. "All these rounds of allegations are absolutely false and baseless," he said.

In 2008, Russian troops invaded the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after skirmishes broke out between Georgian and Russian forces in South Ossetia. To this day, Russian troops remain in the provinces.

The report was drafted by the CIA and had input from the entire U.S. intelligence community. It examined the blast at the embassy as well as the string of bombings that have rocked Georgia since last summer.

The report was completed in December, and members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees were briefed on it in January.

The State Department has pressed the issue at the most senior levels of Russia's Foreign Ministry, according to two Obama administration officials.

"Those events — the embassy bombing and other alleged bombings — have been raised with the Russians at a high level and they have been raised with the Georgians at a high level," one administration official said. "It's not necessarily pointing a finger, but part of a dialogue expressing our deep concerns."

Some lawmakers have sought to learn more about the matter. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chamber's Republican whip, said he sent a classified letter in June to the House and Senate intelligence committees asking them to investigate the incident and report back to members.

"Congress should investigate through the intelligence committees what has occurred and make the findings known to Congress," Mr. Kyl said.

He said the report is important because the administration is pursuing Russia's membership in the World Trade Organization and looking to seal a cooperative missile-defense agreement with Moscow.

"It seems incongruous for the administration to pursue a cooperative missile-defense agreement if, at pretty high levels, the GRU and their government is authorizing the bombing of our embassy," he said.

Mr. Kyl said he could not discuss any intelligence matters involving the Sept. 22 incident.

"I cannot tell you whether I have been briefed by our side and, if so, what I might have been told," he said, referring to the U.S. intelligence community.

A spokesman for the National Security Council and a spokeswoman for the CIA declined to comment for this report because it touches on intelligence issues.

Mr. Kyl is one of five senators who signed a letter released Tuesday to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper asking for briefings by the intelligence community and the State Department on the Sept. 22 incident.

The senators quote Mr. Utiashvili's allegations from The Times' July 22 report.

"Given the seriousness of this accusation, we write to request a briefing from the intelligence community, the State Department and the National Security Council staff about the recent terrorist attacks in Georgia, including the blast near the U.S. Embassy, and their assessment of what, if any, linkages have been identified between the individuals responsible for these attacks and the Russian government," the senators wrote.

In addition to Mr. Kyl, Sens. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican; Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican; Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent; and John McCain, Arizona Republican, signed the letter.

A Republican Senate staffer said that, before Mr. Utiashvili gave his interview to The Times, the back-and-forth with the administration over the incident was not public because so much of the information is classified.

A Georgian court already has sentenced Maj. Borisov in absentia for his purported role in the bombings. U.S. and Georgian officials say Maj. Borisov is still in the breakaway province of Abkhazia.

The allegations of Russian foul play against Americans are not new. A Jan. 30, 2009, cable from U.S. Ambassador John Beyrle first disclosed by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks accuses Russia's Federal Security Service of waging an intimidation campaign against an official at the National Democratic Institute.

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