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Coup attempt: will things calm down or heat up now?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, May 7
On May 5 the Georgian Government said it had quashed an attempted military coup. It did this while very serious internal political confrontation is going on, on the day before NATO exercises were due to start in Vaziani, just a few kilometres from the place where mutiny began, and a couple of days prior to the signing of the Eastern Partnership Programme agreement in Prague.

The incident has been evaluated in several different ways. It is difficult to say at this point whether May 5 will prove to be the peak of the crisis in the country or whether it will become even more intense. After the attempted mutiny at the Mukhrovani battalion was neutralised video material was disseminated which showed the mutineers discussing their plans. They intended to overthrow the current leadership with the help of the Russian Army and install some of the leaders of the previous regime, Aslan Abashidze and others, the video evidence suggests. The new leaders would then refuse to join or partner with NATO, reverse Georgia’s pro-Western course and lead the country back into the CIS and Russia’s orbit, it is suggested. Such plans are entirely consistent with Russian threats made during and after its invasion of Georgia, which are frequently repeated by Russian politicians and analysts.

If we take into account the increasing Russian military presence in the occupied territories, the aggressive statements made by Russian political figures and the irritation Russian officials have expressed toward the NATO exercises in Georgia which began yesterday it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this plot was genuine and overthrowing the Saakashvili administration was an essential part of it. The video clips showed the mutineers talking about money coming from Russia, Russian soldiers allegedly participating in the coup and the names of some people who were sheltered by Russia after the Rose Revolution where also mentioned. The Kremlin denied allegations of its involvement immediately, calling them absurd, saying that the ‘coup attempt’ had been staged by Saakashvili as one of his regular provocations. However this reaction could have been predicted: Moscow would not admit to being involved even if the facts proved this incontrovertibly. The Russian invasion and occupation of Georgian territories demonstrate clearly how Russia behaves, Moscow is violating international law and order and putting all the blame on Georgia.

The Georgian administration must now produce irrefutable evidence of Russian involvement in the attempted coup as a matter of urgency. Otherwise its accusations will look groundless and unconvincing. If additional evidence is not revealed in the near future it will be very difficult for the administration to prove that the ‘mutiny’ was not a well-staged distraction.

The non-Parliamentary opposition has called this reported coup attempt a piece of theatre arranged by Saakashvili and his team, a virtual mutiny. If there is not enough evidence to support the Government’s allegations the present situation might therefore become even more dramatic. One possible reason why the Government might have invented a non-existent rebellion, as the opposition suggest, is to create an excuse for declaring a state of emergency, in which all rallies will be illegal, the Constitution could be suspended and the administration could temporarily close down certain media outlets. The opposition have responded by holding a public information briefing during the rally on Rustaveli Avenue in front of Parliament, telling people how they will continue the fight. The opposition is also still planning to blockade the main highways into the city, although this action has been postponed for a few days, and not everybody in Tbilisi is happy about it as the existing blockades have created serious discomfort for the ordinary population.

We do not yet know what the administration plans to do from here. Maybe it will simply label more and more opposition members as Russian agents. But again the range of options for resolving the political crisis is reducing: the only short term possibilities seem to be limited snap elections or further confrontation. The current allegations and mood make conducting dialogue very unlikely for now. Thinks are getting hotter by the day. But let us still hope for better.s