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Russia Denies Being Behind Attack

February 14, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s interior minister has strongly denied that Russians were behind the recent assassination attempt against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, according to media reports today.

Anatoly Kulikov, who is also Russian vice-premier, is the highest-ranking official yet to directly respond to suspicions among Georgians that Russians might have masterminded the ambush Monday.

Two of Shevardnadze’s bodyguards and one of the attackers were killed in the 10-minute shootout around the president’s motorcade. Shevardnadze was unharmed.

While he denied Russian involvement, Kulikov told Russian state television Friday that those who had carried out the attack could well be in Russia.

``We have offered the Georgian side our help in investigating this crime and assistance in tracking down criminals who _ it cannot be ruled out _ could be in hiding in Moscow,″ he said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Shevardnadze has suggested the attack might have been planned by former Georgian security chief Igor Giorgadze, whom he has blamed for another assassination attempt in 1995. Giorgadze has reportedly been living near Moscow despite Georgia’s demands for his extradition.

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