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Tbilisi announces the arrest of mutiny organizers

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, May 6
Several senior officers of the Georgian Army were arrested and charged with leading an armed mutiny in Tbilisi on May 5.

Spokesperson for the Georgian Interior Ministry Shota Utiashvili stated that the mutiny at the Mukhrovani military base has been “quelled.” He said that Georgian police had arrested the head of the Mukhrovani tank battalion Mamuka Gorgiashvili and “several heads of other units.”

Tbilisi reported the mutiny on Tuesday morning, stating that the battalion at the Mukhrovani settlement near Tbilisi “refused to obey orders from the main headquarters.” The Georgian Interior Ministry said earlier that “a large-scale” armed mutiny was being planned in the Georgian Army by some former military personnel who were “in coordination with Russia.” Tbilisi connected this incident with the NATO military exercises planned for the next day, which have already caused a big wave of protest from Moscow. “It seems this mutiny was coordinated with Russia and aimed at, as a minimum, thwarting the NATO military exercises, and as a maximum organizing a full-scale military rebellion in the country,” Shota Utiashvili, head of the Information and Analytical Department of the Interior Ministry, said on May 5.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made a special televised announcement at midday on Tuesday stating that “the Georgian state and all the relevant structures are ready to take the most decisive steps to eradicate any attempt to undermine constitutional order, our democracy and freedom.” The President announced that he was giving the participants of the mutiny “time to surrender” and threatened to “use relevant measures” if this did not happen. Georgian and foreign media also reported that armed vehicles and helicopters were heading towards the ‘rebel base.’

“I ask our citizens to keep calm and accept with understanding the action which the Georgian state and any ruler in our history would have taken in a situation of this type,” stated Mikheil Saakashvili. “We, and I personally as the President, will act responsibly before the country’s history, before the security of each citizen and before the democratic system. We consider it [the mutiny] a serious threat and serious challenge,” he added.

Speaking after the announcement of the end of the mutiny, The Georgian President commented on the arrest of General Koba Kobaladze, a former commander of the National Guard, who is suspected of organising the mutiny and having links with Russian special services. “We know and you know that these people have done nothing good for Georgia; these are people with a criminal mentality and we know this… These people should not have been free for all this time,” Saakashvili said, referring to Kobaladze and Koba Otanadze, another former National Guard commander, who according to the Interior Ministry were present at the Mukhrovani base during the mutiny. “This liberalism has already become dangerous. I am no longer going to tolerate it; these people are criminals,” underlined the Georgian President.

The Interior Ministry also announced the arrest of Gia Gvaladze, a former Commander of the Defence Ministry’s Special Task Forces, who was also accused of “plotting.” The Interior Ministry released a video recording showing Gvaladze “revealing the plan of the rebellion.” According to this recording several former senior military officers were also involved. They include Gia Karkarashvili, former Minister of Defence and the commander of the Georgian Army during the war in Abkhazia, Davit Tevzadze, a former Defence Minister during Eduard Shevardnadze’s presidency, Jemal Gakhokidze, a former Security Minister, and others. The recorded statements allegedly made by Gvaladze indicate that the rebels were planning to physicaly liquidate current Georgian administration members including Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria and Gigi Ugulava, the Tbilisi Mayor. “5,000 Russian soldiers,” were supposed to support the mutiny and enter Georgia from the occupied territories.

“After the arrest of Gia Gvaladze, the Russian Black Sea Fleet was put on a condition of military readiness,” Utiashvili of the Interior Ministry stated to reiterate his point, stressing that “the plotters had a direct connection with Russia and were financed by them [Russians].” However Russia has already declared that it has no connection with the Mukhrovani incident and called it “another Tbilisi anti-Russian trick.” “Today things are happening in the way we feared. Uncontrollable internal political processes in Georgia are being addressed by searching for an external enemy represented by Russia. This is an unsuitable way of solving the problems of your own society in the explosive Caucasus region,” says a special statement by Russian Foreign Ministry published on April 5. The same statement calls the statement by the Georgian Interior and Defence Ministry on the increase in the activity of Russian troops on the administrative borders of the Georgian breakaway regions “a lie.”

Some of the former military officers named in the footage have already made statements denying their participation in any “mutiny” and calling the allegations “absurd.”