Tuesday, September 2, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Shevardnadze: Fearless life, sad political ending

By
July 08, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — Eduard Shevardnadze was sitting in the front of the small Yak-40 jet that was screaming toward liftoff from Sukhumi. It was 10 p.m. The runway and cabin lights were off. The Georgian leader had spent the day with his troops who were defending the Black Sea city. Abkhazian separatist forces were pouring in rockets.

Shevardnadze, who died Monday at 86, made the dangerous journey to Sukhumi in early March 1993 to take symbolic charge of the Georgian forces. I and my CNN television crew flew with the Georgian leader from the capital, Tbilisi. We spent the day wandering the city, darting into cellar doorways when rocket fire was heard.

At a poorly equipped hospital, Georgian fighters lay bloodied on the floor, and triage doctors darted from one horribly wounded soldier to the next. Shevardnadze visited the clinic, offering comfort to the wounded. He then set off to visit his forces at hilltop positions on the outskirts of Sukhumi.

In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse and Georgian independence, separatists in the autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were trying to break free from Georgian control.

Shevardnadze, once the vibrant and new-thinking foreign minister under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, had returned to his homeland — the former Soviet Republic of Georgia — after Moscow’s sprawling Eurasian empire disintegrated on Christmas night 1991.

Toward the end of that damp and chilly March day in Sukhumi, Shevardnadze drove up in a Russian-made Volga sedan — no armor plating visible — and sat down for an interview in the artillery-blasted regional parliament. He removed his bullet-proof vest and helmet.

He spoke of the bloody ethnic cleansing at the hands of Abkhazian fighters who were driving tens of thousands of Georgians from their homes in the region. Shelters in Tbilisi were full, and even what was then the best hotel in the capital was crammed with displaced Georgian families.

Shevardnadze ducked a question about his own forces having behaved like the Abkhazians. Ethnic hatred had reached extremes.

Shevardnadze said a small country like Georgia could ill afford to lose Abkhazia and its Black Sea coastline, and could not surrender the important port at Sukhumi.

The Georgian leader was calm, dismissing questions about having risked his life in the Abkhazian bombardment. He said he had no choice but to visit the front lines to boost the morale of his forces. The city had been under siege for four months.

I had been with Shevardnadze many times during my long stint in Moscow. Also memorable was one night when Gorbachev was held captive during a failed coup against him in 1991. All our live broadcasting was done on the roof of our building in central Moscow. The only access was to clamber up a steel ladder and through a tiny hatch.

Shevardnadze popped out of that hatch and spoke witheringly of the coup plotters.

He and Gorbachev were both members of the ruling Soviet Politburo when Gorbachev was named to the top post of general secretary in 1985. They were old friends and men with a liberal bent. Shevardnadze said in a memoir that he was shocked when Gorbachev called him to Moscow to be foreign minister.

Before Gorbachev took control of the Soviet Union and began his policies of perestroika and glasnost (restructuring and openness), I had heard from a KGB source that the two men met by chance in the southern Russian city of Stavropol, near Gorbachev’s home village. I was never able to confirm the report. But the source said the two men had a long talk and agreed that the country needed to end its occupation of Afghanistan and drop its Cold War stance toward the United States and the West.

Once Gorbachev took power and Shevardnadze was foreign minister, the two men began a dramatic dismantling of Soviet control over its Central and East European satellite nations, pulled forces back inside the Soviet Union and set off on successful negotiations with Washington to limit nuclear weapons. They moved as if taking care of a checklist of international problems — a list that originated in that Stavropol meeting.

But by 1990, Shevardnadze, showing the convictions he had displayed on the Sukhumi journey, quit as foreign minister and warned of a dictatorship. He was worried, he later wrote, of a new dictatorship in the country, as Gorbachev was believed to be falling under the influence of communist hard-liners.

But in the course of his leadership of the tiny country of his birth, Shevardnadze’s administration became increasingly akin to the dictatorial stance he had warned Gorbachev about more than a decade earlier. He was driven from office in a 2003 uprising, but had done much to pull Georgia back from the failed-nation brink it had reached when he took control.

It was, for a time, Georgia’s great good fortune that the Yak-40 made it safely back to Tbilisi.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Labor Day not a holiday for everyone

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Labor Day breakfast introduces union-backed candidates

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Pool provides last dose of summer fun in the sun

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
SafeQuest schedules peer counseling training course

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A5

Labor Day sees more Solano freeway crashes

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Aug. 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

VP Biden says workers deserve ‘fair share’

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Obama: ‘Revving’ economy calls for higher wages

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
San Francisco to be 1st to test urban farming law

By The Associated Press | From Page:

GOP challenger tries novel tactics against Brown

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Texas’ Perry says disparaging tweet unauthorized

By The Associated Press | From Page:

US eating habits improve a bit – except among poor

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
No gray area: Beliefs shape views of Brown killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Americans detained in North Korea call for US help

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Iraqi prime minister pledges to root out militants

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Poland’s PM: Ukraine’s war must be stopped now

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Pro-Russian rebels lower demands in peace talks

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

US helicopter crashes in Gulf of Aden; all rescued

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Opinion

.

Living

Community Calendar: Sept. 2, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
.

Entertainment

Inquiries begin into nude celebrity photo leaks

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
‘Guardians’ tops Labor Day, summer box office

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Kirk rallies to win the Deutsche Bank

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Rockies top Giants after losing end of suspended game

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Dunn homers in 1st at-bat as A’s top Mariners

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Right guard Boone passes physical, rejoins 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Raiders name rookie Derek Carr as starting QB

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Armijo beats Vanden 2-0 to claim All-City boys soccer title

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Armed with new deal, Chiefs’ Smith looks forward

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Column: Stewart’s Chase status doesn’t matter

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Raiders ink CB Dowling, 9 others to practice squad

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Serena Williams, Djokovic roll to US Open quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Houston Astros fire manager Bo Porter

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Hamels, 3 Phillies relievers no-hit Braves

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Markets drift as Wall Street has day off

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Austerity debate flares as Europe recovery fades

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Civil disobedience expected in fast-food pay fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Blondie Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
B.C. Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Crossword Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Dilbert Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Garfield Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7