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Georgians Outraged By 'Invasion' Report

Screen shot of television station Imedi.
Georgia's political opposition has denounced a mock television report of a Russian invasion as Georgian government-sponsored propaganda which they said had traumatized many people.

The mock report, which aired on the night of March 13 on Imedi TV, sparked brief panic in Georgia as viewers feared a repeat of the August 2008 war that saw Russian troops pour into Georgia.

Emergency services recorded a sharp rise in heart attacks and fainting among the public while the program was being aired.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili spokeswoman Manana Manjgalazde delivered a personal message of caution to Imedi staff from the Georgian leader.

"The President sent me here to tell the (TV staff) that when such a program is being made, despite the fact that our country is still subjected to certain threats, there should be not only a verbal warning in advance but also a special on-screen banner saying it is an 'imitation' (of possible events)," Manjgalazde said.

Opposition leader Nino Burjanadze said her Democratic Movement-United Georgia party would sue Imedi television and the authorities over the item, which she called outrageous.

Imedi TV head George Arveladze has apologized for the report, which claimed that some Georgian opposition leaders, including Burjanadze and former prime minister Zurab Nogaideli, had joined forces with Russia and called for a mutiny among the armed forces.

Showing footage from the war, the report said Russian tanks were headed for the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and that President Mikheil Saakashvili had been killed.

A brief notice before the report said it was a "simulation" of possible events, but the report itself appeared genuine and carried no warning it was a fake.

compiled from agency reports