'Envoy' death reveals US role in Georgia: Suspected CIA agent was part of Washington policy to establish influence in former Soviet Union

THE DIRECTOR of the CIA, James Woolsey, flew to Georgia yesterday to collect the body of a murdered American identified as a diplomat but widely believed to have been an intelligence agent.

The visit, and the publicity accorded it by US officials, suggests a desire by Washington to stake out a clear presence in a region once Moscow's exclusive preserve but now among the most volatile bits of the fragmented Soviet empire.

There was no official word on reports that the dead American, Fred Woodruff, 45, was a CIA agent sent to strengthen personal security arrangements for the Georgian leader, Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister. Woodruff was described after the murder as a 'regional-affairs officer' on temporary assignment.

In Washington, though, a State Department spokesman effectively confirmed reports that the Clinton administration had decided to play a more active role in former Soviet republics. This new strategy, as detailed by the Washington Post, would have the United States act as a mediator in regions such as Georgia, where Mr Shevardnadze has spent the past year trying to crush a separatist rebellion in the Black Sea region of Abkhazia.

But sections of the Russian military and more nationalistic politicians see more sinister motives and accuse the US of trespassing on Moscow's turf and harbouring imperial ambitions of its own.

The conservative military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) yesterday published a diatribe describing US plans for greater involvement in the former Soviet Union as a 'direct and unceremonious interference in the internal affairs of Russia and neighbouring countries'.

Such concerns will not have been calmed by the scene yesterday at Tbilisi airport, where Mr Woolsey stood on the Tarmac alongside Mr Shevardnadze, remembered in the West as a hero but condemned by some Russians as the man who gave away Eastern Europe. As they watched, a coffin draped with the Stars and Stripes was loaded into the Boeing in which the CIA director had earlier flown in from Moscow.

The murder of Woodruff outside Tbilisi follows that of a senior Russian official two weeks ago in the northern Caucasus. He was shot dead in an ambush while trying to broker a settlement between feuding Ingush and Ossetian peoples. Woodruff died while travelling by car on Sunday night with Mr Shevardnadze's security chief and two other Georgians. Details remain murky but most reports say he was killed by a single bullet to the head. No one else was hurt.

Stung by accusations of too little too late in former Yugoslavia, Washington seems eager to avoid the same mistake in the former Soviet Union. 'We have been working, as I think you know, in the area of preventive diplomacy and trying to deal with a lot of the conflict and strife that is arising in several of the former Soviet republics,' the State Department spokesman said yesterday. 'There is really a range of things going on I think, not only in Georgia but also as they relate to Abkhazia and Tajikistan.'

The Krasnaya Zvezda commentary yesterday accused Washington of trying to fuel, not reduce tension, accusations similar to those made by critics of Moscow's continuing military presence in Georgia, Tajikistan and other republics. It said Washington's real aim was to complete a policy pursued by presidents Reagan and Bush of undermining Russia's security.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue