TBILISI (Xinhua)–A former Georgian special forces commander and a tank battalion commander were arrested Tuesday for allegedly organizing an attempted mutiny that ended peacefully when most participants surrendered, officials said.
Defense Minister David Sikharulidze said the mutiny had been planned “on a broader scale” and was aimed at foiling planned NATO military exercises scheduled to begin Wednesday in Georgia, a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus.
“The general objective was to topple the government with an armed revolt,” Sikharulidze said.
Georgian officials said the mutiny began Tuesday when about 500members of a tank battalion stationed at a military base in Mukhrovani, 30 km from Tbilisi, announced that they would refuse to follow orders.
The mutineers, however, later handed over their weapons and surrendered. The surrender came after the mutineers spoke with President Mikhail Saakashvili, who suggested that force could be used against them if they refused to give themselves up, said Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili.
“The preliminary investigation materials showed that the plot was coordinated with the Russians and was aimed at disrupting the NATO training scheduled to take place in Georgia on May 6,” the spokesman said.
Georgian officials identified the organizer of the mutiny as Giya Gvaladze, a former special forces commander. Koba Kobaladze, a commander of the tank battalion, also was detained, the Interfax news agency reported.
The two men will be charged with planning a coup and involvement in the Russian special services, Utiashvili said, adding that a video seized by the Interior Ministry showed Gvaladze talking to his followers about the planned mutiny.
Saakashvili, who is bent on bringing Georgia into NATO, has been the target of more than three weeks of protests by opposition demonstrators demanding he resign. His government has accused Russians of supporting the opposition.
The news comes a day before NATO military exercises are scheduled to begin near Tbilisi. Scheduled for May 6 to June 1, the drills involve about 1,300 soldiers from over a dozen NATO members or ally states, including many former Soviet ones.
Armenia on Tuesday pulled out of the military exercises citing “the current situation,” after Georgia said it had put down the mutiny. Its close ally Russia had strongly condemned the war games as an act of provocation.
“In the current situation the representatives of the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia will not participate in the NATO Partnership for Peace exercises,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.