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Georgian Legislator Names Mastermind Behind Purported Mutiny

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left), with bodyguards, inspects the Mukhrovani military base on May 5.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left), with bodyguards, inspects the Mukhrovani military base on May 5.
Givi Targamadze, who chairs the Georgian parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security Issues, has named St. Petersburg-based Georgian businessman Aleksandr Ebralidze as the mastermind behind the alleged mutiny on May 5 at the Mukhrovani military base east of Tbilisi. Targamadze claimed the objective of that mutiny -- by members of a single tank battalion -- was "at minimum to trigger disorder" and at maximum to "pave the way for the entry of Russian occupation forces into Tbilisi."

Speaking on May 22 on the television channel Rustavi-2, Targamadze identified Ebralidze, who was born in Batumi and has lived in Russia for the past three decades, as the man who "organized everything." Targamadze said he refrained earlier from making public Ebralidze's connection with the insurgency, but decided to do so after Ebralidze announced on May 14 at an assembly in Sochi of Georgians who live in Russia that he plans to run in the next Georgian presidential election. Ebralidze is a citizen of Russia, not of Georgia, and he told the Sochi gathering that he will ask Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to grant him Georgian citizenship in order to qualify as a presidential candidate.

That assembly in Sochi adopted a resolution that the Russian daily "Kommersant" construed as "an ultimatum to the Georgian leadership." The resolution said Georgia should become "a neutral state, outside any blocs...there should be no military threat to anyone from the territory of our homeland. Georgia in turn should receive international guarantees of noninterference in its internal affairs. The restoration and development of good-neighborly relations with Russia as an equal should become Georgia's most important priority."

Targamadze further insinuated that Ebralidze could not have made a successful business career in St. Petersburg without the approval and support of Russian Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin. From mid-1990 to mid-1996, Putin held a series of influential posts within the office of the St. Petersburg mayor.

Targamadze identified two more Georgians as having coordinated a series of meetings in other, unnamed CIS states, beginning in January 2009, at which, he said, the mutiny was planned. The first is businessman Tariel Oniani, whom Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili named in March as among a number of people suspected of seeking to destabilize Georgia at Russia's instigation. But Merabishvili said at that time that Oniani was not a "key figure" in those plans.

The second is former parliament deputy and businessman Bondo Shalikiani, who was arrested in March 2004, just months after Saakashvili's election as president, and released four months later after signing over his property to the state, according to Caucasus Press on July 22, 2004.

During the same televised interview, Targamadze said a total of 33 people were detained for questioning following the incident at Mukhrovani, one of whom has been released on bail. Of the remaining 32, 20 are military officers and 12 civilians.

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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