TBILISI (Eurasianet)–Amid protests from Moscow, along with homegrown political turmoil in Georgia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization drills began on May 6 at Vaziani military base, about 20 kilometers outside the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
Eighteen countries are participating in the maneuvers that are scheduled to last for about three weeks. The exercises will focus on crisis-response action and peacekeeping operations, defense officials told EurasiaNet.
The beginning of the training coincided with the expulsion of two NATO diplomats from Moscow. The alliance and the Kremlin have been at loggerheads over the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008.
Georgia, in turn, has come out with its own espionage revelations in connection with a May 5 mutiny attempt at a tank battalion base outside of Tbilisi.
Vakhtang Maisaia, until 2008 an advisor in Georgia’s mission to NATO, confessed to Georgian investigators that he has shared classified military information with Russia’s security services in exchange for financial rewards. The Ministry of Internal Affairs released his videotaped confession. The ministry claimed that Maisaia, a reputed military analyst and academician, supplied Russian intelligence with information about Georgian troop movements and locations during the Georgian-Russian war.
The news comes as police armed with truncheons clashed with opposition leaders and stick-wielding protesters Wednesday in the first major outbreak of violence in a month of demonstrations against President Mikhail Saakashvili, police and government opponents said.