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10 May, 2009 08:57

“All mutiny will be punished” – frightened Saakashvili

Georgia has been rocked by the announcement of a possible coup d'etat by an army division. The news hit amid repeated clashes between the police and ongoing opposition rallies.

Another opposition rally in Tbilisi was demanding the release of several arrested opposition supporters. But as thousands of protestors gathered at Tbilisi's central police station, all they got were rubber bullets flying their way.

"Something hit me on my head. I don't know who was shooting. Most probably Task Force officers. I was in front of the crowd among other mothers. They were shooting with rubber bullets,” says a wounded protestor.

The opposition claimed more than 60 people were injured, including one of their leaders.

"We have no guns, nor any kind of armaments. We are trying to keep people away from the police building. But there are too many people, and it's difficult to control the situation. So as I many times called on people to keep their distance, immediately police were trying to make noise, to make people more nervous," said opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze.

For the past few months, protest rallies in the center of the capital have become a part of ordinary life. But this week, the political situation got worse. Authorities said there was an alleged mutiny at a military base near Tbilisi.

Police reportedly arrested 500 mutineers. President Saakashvili personally visited the base, and was shown shaking the hand of an alleged traitor, right before making the following statement.

"We will tackle any attempt to destabilize the situation in the country. All mutiny will be punished," stated the President.

This was just the first revelation of the week. Next was video footage of a group of armed men allegedly planning a revolt. That led to some former top military officials being put behind bars. Then Georgia’s former diplomat to NATO, Vakhtang Maisaia, was seen making this confession…

"During the war between Georgia and South Ossetia I passed on information about Georgia's military. In exchange for this information, money was transfered to my bank account."

And finally, on Friday the man in charge of NATO integration was accused of exposing state secrets.

"It really reminds me of the Soviet repressions of the 1930s. It's thought all of these hidden camera videos are made by Georgian special services with the only aim – staying in power,” says Erosi Kutsmarishvili, opposition activist and president of Foundation 2020.

And amid all the domestic turmoil, NATO is holding war games in the country, despite warnings from Moscow that the region was not stable enough – especially after the conflict in South Ossetia last August.

The end of the week brought no respite. At least ten thousand protestors again gathered in front of parliament, demanding that authorities resume talks. Attempts at negotiations on Friday brought no results. This was quite a turbulent week in Tbilisi.

Most foreign media came to witness the start of the NATO-led military exercises, but instead got to see the Georgian police in action. And as scores of protestors continue to gather in the city centre, it's doubtful the tensions are going to cool down anytime soon.