Georgia troops stage mutiny
Georgian troops on Tuesday staged a mutiny on the eve of Nato exercises in the ex-Soviet republic, which the government said it ended without violence but accused Russia of backing the rebels.
A tank battalion at the Mukhrovani base just outside Tbilisi staged the uprising, officials said. The mutineers had plotted the assassination of President Mikheil Saakashvili, according to interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili.
"It's over. Most of the people have surrendered, including the commander of the battalion. A few people have escaped," Utiashvili told AFP. "There was no violence whatsover."
Several dozen armoured vehicles reportedly went to the Mukhrovani base, about 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Tbilisi, Georgian television reported.
Saakashvili called it a "large-scale mutiny" but Rustavi-2 television reported that the president had gone personally to the base to negotiate with the mutineers.
Accusations of Russian involvement, angrily denied in Moscow, reignited diplomatic tensions which have remained high since a five day war between the neighbours last August.
Defence Minister David Sikharulidze said the "rebellion" was aimed at "disrupting Nato exercises and overturning the authorities militarily."
The interior ministry said it had uncovered a plot for an "armed uprising" among defence ministry units and that Russia was involved.
"The plan was coordinated with Russia, at a minimum to disrupt Nato military exercises and at a maximum to organise a large-scale military rebellion in Georgia," the interior ministry spokesman said.
"We have information that the rebels were in direct contact with Russians, that they were receiving orders from them, that they were receiving money from them."
Utiashvili said two suspects had been arrested and that the plot included a plan to assassinate Saakashvili.
"The plan was to stage a large-scale mutiny in Tbilisi and to take steps against the sovereignty of Georgia and the Georgian government's European and Euro-Atlantic integration," Saakashvili said in a televised address.
"The situation is under control. There is order and calm in all other military units," Saakashvili said.
"I demand from our northern neighbour that it refrain from provocations," he added.
Russia's envoy to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, told the Interfax news agency that the accusations against Moscow were "insane."
"We have slowly grown accustomed to insane accusations from Georgia's political and military leaders," he said. "What is taking place now is the total collapse of the Georgian army and the Georgian state."
Georgia's accusations show the "sick imagination" of the Tbilisi leadership, a top Russian foreign ministry official told Interfax.
Georgia has seen new political instability in recent weeks with opposition groups attempting to force Saakashvili's resignation. Opposition supporters have been rallying in the capital for nearly a month to demand his resignation.
Protest organisers had been due to start a new campaign of blocking key highways on Tuesday, but an opposition spokeswoman, Sopho Jajanashvili, said the action had been cancelled. Opposition leaders were to make a statement on the crisis.
Georgia was to host Nato exercises from Wednesday that have been condemned as provocative by Russia. The month-long war games are to involve more than 1,100 soldiers from more than a dozen Nato countries in "crisis response" command and field exercises.
Georgia and Russia fought a five day war last year over South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia.