MOSCOW — OUSTED Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia declared civil war against the republic of Georgia's new military rulers at a rally of supporters yesterday after returning to his homeland from a brief exile in Armenia, Tass news agency reported.
Tass based its report on remarks by Tengiz Kitovani, one of the leaders of the Military Council ruling Georgia since armed groups drove Mr. Gamsakhurdia out 10 days ago. Tass said the Georgian news agency Fact reported Gamsakhurdia making his statement at a rally of supporters in Zugdidi, in western Georgia.
The population of Zugdidi largely belong to Gamsakhurdia's own Mengreli ethnic group. The western Georgian vote helped Gamsakhurdia win a presidential election in May with 87 percent of the vote.
Gamsakhurdia called for his supporters to march on the capital, Tbilisi, in the east of the Transcaucasian republic, and he declared the start of a civil war. Quoting the Fact agency, Tass reported that about 1,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Tbilisi railway station to demand Gamsakhurdia's return to power.
The ruling Military Council is still maintaining a state of emergency in Tbilisi under which street protests are banned. Gunmen loyal to the ruling military coalition killed four people when breaking up a pro-Gamsakhurdia rally in the capital two weeks ago.
Tass also quoted informed sources as saying Gamsakhurdia's supporters in the town of Sukhumi, in western Georgia, had yesterday discussed formation of an independent republic in the west. It said the planned new region, to be called Mengrelo-Abkhaz Republic, would comprise the region of Abkhazia, with its capital Sukhumi, and the region around Zugdidi populated mostly by Mengreli.
Gamsakhurdia fled Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, on Jan. 6 after two weeks of gun battles and shelling in the city's center. The rebel groups took power in Georgia, but say they are gradually handing power over to a civilian provisional government, pending new elections later this year.