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Former Georgian Ministers Comment On 2009 Mutiny Video


Vano Merabishvili (left) denies ordering anyone to be killed, while Bacho Akhalaia says he did what "any responsible publicly elected government in any normal country" would have done. (file photo)

Vano Merabishvili (left) denies ordering anyone to be killed, while Bacho Akhalaia says he did what "any responsible publicly elected government in any normal country" would have done. (file photo)

Former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and former Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia have both commented on the controversial video footage showing them, together with former Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili and former President Mikheil Saakashvili, apparently at the Mukhrovani military base near Tbilisi at the time of an alleged mutiny by senior military personnel in early May 2009.

Merabishvili is seen in that four-minute video clip, which was uploaded on January 29, telling a uniformed commander identified by the website Civil.ge as the then-head of the Interior Ministry's Special Operative Department, Irakli Kodua, and other men in camouflage, "I want two men, I need two corpses, bring me these two corpses, there will be a large bonus."

The camera then cuts to show a group of men in civilian clothes escorted by armed servicemen emerging from a building, apparently on the base. They include then-Defense Minister Akhalaia, Adeishvili, and Saakashvili, who is seen checking his watch and asking, "Where's Vano?"

The Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an investigation on the premise that there is a connection between Merabishvili's words and a special operation two weeks later in which two of the alleged mutineers, Koba Otanadze and Levan Amiridze, were captured and a third killed.

Speaking on January 30 in Kutaisi, where he is standing trial on charges of exceeding his authority by giving orders for the use of force against antigovernment demonstrators in Tbilisi in May 2011, Merabishvili denied ever issuing orders to kill anyone. He said his order to "bring me two corpses" referred to two Russian intelligence agents murdered by the mutineers to remove evidence of any Russian role in the mutiny.

Merabishvili's disclaimer is questionable for two reasons. First, the presence of Russian agents at Mukhrovani during the mutiny has never been alleged before, and was not mentioned during the trial of Otanadze and Amiridze in October 2009. And second, when the alleged mutiny was first made public, Georgian government spokesmen said the captured mutineers themselves admitted they were acting at Moscow's behest. (At their subsequent trial they denied this, claiming they sought only to register their resentment at their treatment by the Georgian top brass.)

Saakashvili for his part said in a televised address to the nation on May 5, 2009, that the mutineers had contacts "with the agents of one particular country." He did not explicitly mention Russia. But Caucasus Press quoted Saakashvili as telling Merabishvili the same day to apprehend "at all cost" the "criminals" who sought to provoke unrest on orders from "their bosses in Russia."

Akhalaia, who is awaiting trial on charges of using excessive brutality against prisoners while serving as head of the penitentiary system, issued a separate statement on January 30 in which he affirmed that the Mukhrovani mutiny was indeed orchestrated by Russia. Akhalaia further argued that "any responsible publicly elected government in any normal country" would have taken similar measures to "avoid a bloodbath."

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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