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Veterans' Failed Mutiny Unsettles Georgian Politicians
Tbilisi / 25 Mar.'03 / 14:42
By Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia

The third mutiny in the Georgian army for last three years ended on March 24, when 19 former servicemen of the National Guard, which seized the military unit in Tbilisi, surrendered to the police. Georgian leadership says “certain forces” stood behind the mutiny, aiming at destabilizing situation in the country, while the veterans of the National Guard claim social hardship triggered their desperate move. 

Late on March 23 dozens of ex-servicemen of the National Guard occupied military base in capital city, disarmed the guard, as General Prosecutor said “without any problem” seized the weapons and the armored vehicles.

US-trained Georgian commando battalion surrounded the base, and high officials, including the Interior, State Security Ministers and the General Prosecutor negotiated with the veterans throughout the night.

“There were only two options for them: go to jail, or expect an attack,” Interior Minister said after the mutiny members surrendered to police in the morning on March 24. 19 former servicemen of the National Guard face charges for seizing the facility of vital importance.

Georgian General Prosecutor Nugzar Gabrichidze said “the reason of the mutiny was to attract attention to their difficult social conditions; this is what they [veterans] say.”

The relatives of the mutineers, as well as their former colleagues from the National Guard say the group of the veterans was returning from a funeral of one of their former friends-in-arms. They argue appalling living conditions that the deceased lived in, as well as the conditions of his family triggered the protest that resulted in seizing of the military unit.

However Georgian authorities cast doubt on the veterans' motives. “This was not an accidental event. Certain forces stood behind the mutiny, which was directed against the Georgian national security,” Georgian President Shevardnadze said at the news briefing on March 24.

“No one acts this way in order to attract attention. This was a well-planned provocation,” Koba Narchemashvili, Interior Minister told the reporters on March 24.

Georgian Defense Minster David Tevzadze said on March 24 briefing, “The law enforcers had information that the provocation was preparing. But we did not know which military base would be targeted by the mutiny participants.”

However none of the authorities specifies the aims, reasons and the forces standing behind the mutiny. “The investigation is on and all the questions will be answered after the investigation,” President Shevardnadze said.

There are some speculations in the Georgian media that the mutiny members were associates of Moscow-based former Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani, who repeatedly expressed harsh criticism towards President Shevardnadze. However, in his interview to the Georgian TV channel Rustavi 2 Kitovani denied any links with the mutiny.

This was the third incident in the Georgian army in last three years. All of them were obscured with the social motives.

Last July up to 100 elite officers of the Commando battalion and the special unit filed resignation to the Minister of Defense, protesting against the heavy social conditions and corruption in the Georgian army. 

The first clear warning to the Georgian government that urgent action needed to be taken in the Georgian army was so-called "Mukhrovani insurrection" of May, 2001 when the servicemen of the National Guard mutinied with social demands. President Shevardnadze pardoned the participants of the mutiny.

But now President chose uncompromising stance. “Mutiny participants should be severely punished and there will be no pardoning for the criminals any more,” Shevardnadze said.

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