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Batumi-Based Military Unit Mutinies
/ 20 Apr.'04 / 08:56
Tea Gularidze, Civil Georgia

Maj. Gen. Roman Dumbadze, who was dismissed as a commander of the 25th Armored-Mechanized Brigade, deployed in Adjarian capital Batumi, has officially announced his insubordination to the Defense Ministry orders. Georgian Defense Minister condemned mutineer Maj. Gen. Dumbadze as a “traitor.”

“The 25th brigade is subordinated only to the [Adjarian leader] Aslan Abashidze. I serve the Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze and my dismissal is only up to him. 25th Brigade answers to Aslan Abashidze, who is our supreme commander,” Roman Dumbadze told a press conference in Batumi on April 19. 

Maj. Gen. Dumbadze was relieved of his command in early April by the direct orders of Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili. He was accused of insubordination during a standoff between Tbilisi and Batumi in March. Later on, President Saakashvili used his authority as supreme commander of the armed forces to dismiss Gen. Dumbadze from the military service.

President Saakashvili accused commander of the 25th Brigade in mutiny on March 14, after the President and his entourage was barred from entering Adjarian Autonomy. Maj. Gen. Dumbadze admitted that the armored vehicles of the 25th Brigade were used to block administrative border of the Autonomous Republic after the orders from the Adjarian leadership.

Saakashvili said on March 14 that the 25th Brigade of the Georgian armed forces “refused to obey the central authorities command” and was on high alert after the orders of the Adjarian leadership. “This is nothing more than disobedience,” he added.

The statement was followed by bringing criminal charges against Maj. Gen. Dumbadze. The Military Prosecutor’s Office accused him of disobedience. However, Maj. Gen. Dumbadze has ignored a summons to appear at the Prosecutor’s Office in Tbilisi.

Maj. Gen. Dumbadze has been the commander of the 25th Brigade for last 12 years and fought the war in Abkhazia in early 90s. On January 25, 2004 he led a military parade of the 25th Brigade to mark President Saakashvili’s inauguration in Batumi, attended by Mikheil Saakashvili and Aslan Abashidze.

Mutineer Maj. Gen. Dumbadze explained his decision to defy central authorities’ orders with “willingness to avoid civil confrontation and bloodshed in Adjara.” He accused the central government in an attempt to forcefully take over the region. “I call on each soldier and officer of the Georgian armed forces not to obey orders directed against Adjara,” Maj. Gen. Dumbadze said in a live broadcast of Mze television late on April 19.

His statement is fully in the line of the Adjarian leader’s stance, who permanently claims that the central authorities intend incursion in the Autonomous Republic.

The 25th Armored-Mechanized Brigade is completely composed by the local population of the Adjarian Autonomy. The number of servicemen in the Brigade does not exceed 300-350 soldiers.  

“The 25th Brigade can not be considered as a formidable and well-armed military unit; however the Brigade has two anti-aircraft missile systems and several armored vehicles,” military expert Koba Liklikadze of Radio Liberty told Civil Georgia.

In an interview to the Tbilisi-based Mze television Chief of Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces Givi Iukuridze also admitted that the mutineer military unit “is not a well-trained and well-equipped Brigade.”

He also said that not every soldier in the Brigade “shares Dumbadze’s position.” Nine servicemen of the unit defied mutineer Maj. General’s orders and left for Tbilisi. Georgian Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili called the servicemen of the 25th Brigade for refusing to obey “a traitor.”

“Do not become a political tool in the hands of bandits,” Gela Bezhuashvili said, addressing the 25th Brigade’s personnel.

Chief of Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces Givi Iukuridze admitted “the Defense Ministry is limited in carrying out measures in the Adjarian Autonomy to solve the problem.” “Resolution of the problem fully depends on the politicians. If there will be a political agreement between Tbilisi and Batumi the problem of the 25th Brigade will be resolved,” Givi Iukuridze added.

“Like Abashidze, Batumi-based military unit does not subordinates the central authorities, which further increase tensions between Tbilisi and Batumi. The fact of mutiny of the military unit makes the situation more dangerous and more complicated in troubled region,” Irakli Aladashvili, a military observer of the Weekly Palette newspaper told Civil Georgia.
 
Servicemen of the 25th Brigade were expected to participate in the military exercises in the Black Sea town of Poti, near the Adjarian Autonomy, however the exercises were postponed for late April for unspecified reasons. According to the unofficial reports problems persisting regarding the 25th brigade were the main reason for postponing the exercises.

This is the fourth mutiny in the Georgian army for past four years. However, unlike the recent one, three pervious incidents were obscured with the social motives.

Last year dozens of ex-servicemen of the National Guard occupied military base in capital city Tbilisi demanding improvement of the social conditions. In 2002 up to 100 elite officers of the Commando battalion and the special unit filed resignation to the Minister of Defense, protesting against the social hardship and corruption in the Georgian army. In 2001 the servicemen of the National Guard mutinied with social demands.

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