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Tbilisi names the organiser of the mutiny

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, May 25
Well-known businessman Alexander Ebralidze was behind the mutiny at the Mukhrovani military base on May 5, Georgian MP Givi Targamadze announced on Friday.

Alexander Ebralidze is an ethnic Georgian businessman currently living in St. Petersburg, Russia. Speaking on the Georgian Rustavi 2 TV channel, Targamadze, who is the head of the Parliamentary Security and Defence Committee, announced that Ebralidze “had organised all this,” meaning the Mukhrovani mutiny. “The goal of plan was at minimum to cause riots or at maximum prepare the base for the entry of Russian occupation forces to Tbilisi,” stated Targamadze, adding that Ebralidze “was connected with the Russian authorities.” “In today’s Russia it’s impossible to be a billionaire tycoon in St. Petersburg and not be under the control of the most famous resident of St. Petersburg,” said the MP, obviously referring to Vladimir Putin, the current Prime Minister of Russia.

Batumi-born Alexander Ebralidze moved to Russia in 1971. The Russian media reports that before starting his successful businesses Ebralidze was twice arrested, and sentenced to several years in jail, for “armed robbery and hooliganism.” His fortune is evaluated by different sources as being between USD 250 million and USD 500 million. Ebralidze is the President of the World Congress of Peoples of Georgia, a movement uniting Georgian emigrants in Russia and other countries.

Speaking in Sochi at the Assembly of People of Georgia on May 15, the tycoon announced that he planned to stand for the Georgian Presidency at some point. This announcement triggered protests from of some of those who had travelled from Tbilisi for the Assembly. Outspoken critics of the Georgian authorities were among those who walked out after Ebralidze’s announcement. Ebralidze said: “I have been waiting for 20 years, but now I am giving up my modesty.” Speaking at an online press conference on April 2009, Ebralidze stated that he would come to Tbilisi in May-June 2009 and claim Georgian citizenship. “In June we will open a branch [of the World Congress of Peoples of Georgia] in Tbilisi, we will create a website, we will start to publish a newspaper. We will also purchase a TV channel and radio station,” said Ebralidze.

“I was restraining myself from naming the man who organised all this [the Mukhrovani mutiny], but he has announced that after this aborted mutiny he can’t wait any longer and should participate in the next Presidential election. He is Mister Ebralidze,” stated Givi Targamadze.

The mutiny at the Mukhrovani base started on May 5, when Tbilisi announced that a tank battalion had “refused to obey the central Government.” After several hours of negotiations it was announced that the rebel soldiers had surrendered. Officials said that the mutiny had tried to achieve several things, including the spoilation of the international NATO-backed military exercises, the assassination of several Georgian politicians and the occupation of the whole of Georgia by Russian troops. Givi Targamazde stated that 32 people are being held in pretrial detention on charges of participating in the mutiny, 20 servicemen and 12 civilians.

The Georgian opposition was very sceptical of the initial announcement that there had been a mutiny, saying it had been staged by the Government to distract people’s attention from the internal political crisis. “The Georgian Government has yet to prove that the ‘Mukhrovani mutiny’ was actually a mutiny. Calling some Russian businessman the organiser of it, without providing any real evidence, is just ridiculous. This kind of accusation may convince Mister Targamadze’s own family but it’s quite weak for Georgian society. I personally don’t know who this Ebralidze is, but I know he doesn’t participate in the political processes in Georgia,” Davit Berdzenishvili, one of the leaders of the opposition Republican Party, told The Messenger on May 24.