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Terrorism & Security

Georgia accuses Russia of backing attempted coup

Officials in Tbilisi say a revolt at an Army base was part of an attempt to disrupt the government and had support from Russia.

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According to The Times of London, news of the suspected coup plot and the tank battalion mutiny come at a time when Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili is facing stiff opposition and sustained calls for his resignation.

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The uprising was linked to discontent over the political situation in Georgia, [an Interior Ministry spokesman] added. Opposition parties began street demonstrations on April 9 to force Mr Saakashvili [to resign] but support for the protest has been dwindling.

President Saakashvili is seen as authoritarian and incapable of managing the threat posed by Russia, reports the London-based daily The Guardian. Opposition politicians accuse Saakashvili of presiding over an increasingly authoritarian and repressive regime. Several senior figures in Saakashvili's government have defected to the opposition, accusing him of starting an unwinnable war that enabled Russia to strengthen its grip on the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, the Russian government has rejected Georgia's allegations that it was behind the alleged coup plot, and NATO declined to comment.

Bloomberg reports that the situation between Georgia and Russia has been tense, with Georgia objecting to Russian troop presence in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Russia acknowledged as sovereign nations after the war last August.

Russia has deployed more than 10,000 soldiers in two breakaway Georgian regions, thousands more than previously announced, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
"We have serious grounds to believe that Russia has more than 10,000 troops in the two regions, not 3,700 in each as they have claimed," Zurab Kachkachishvili, head of the ministry's political department, told reporters in Tbilisi today....
"Even a single soldier on our territory amounts to an occupation," Kachkachishvili said. "The fact that thousands are there is a clear provocation."

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Georgia remains the focal point in tensions between Russia, NATO, and the United States.

Last week, [Russian President Dimitri] Medvedev signed an agreement allowing Russia to put its own border guards in South Ossetia and Abkhazia....
The U.S. State Department responded quickly that the Russian move in the quasi-annexed Georgian regions was a violation of Georgian territorial integrity that caused "serious concern."
But Mr. Medvedev seemed to be getting just what he wanted: a whipsaw situation of heightened tensions in which he could scare some European NATO allies that regard the Georgian government as threateningly unstable; and the future use of those tensions to bring pressure on Mr. Obama as the opportunity arises.
At the same time last week, Mr. Medvedev described as "provocative" NATO exercises scheduled to begin in Georgia on Wednesday (Russia turned down an invitation to participate in them); they involve no heavy equipment or arms and concentrate on things like disaster response and search and rescue.

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