Georgian President Saakashvili was on a visit to the breakaway province of Abkhazia as events first unfolded in Tiblisi on Wednesday. Moscow supports Abkhazian independence, Saakashvili is keen to reassert centralised control over the province – and the dispute is one of the major causes of conflict between Russia and Georgia.
Saakashvili has bypassed separatists by re-forming a loyalist government in Abkhazia. He has also promised to rein in pro-Russian rebels in south Ossetia. This open defiance of Moscow has lead to frequent rumours that he might face a coup attempt.
In August helicopters carrying the Georgian defence minister, President Saakashvilli and visiting American senators were fired on by South Ossetian rebels. Earlier this month Georgian authorities arrested 20 opposition activists on charges of plotting a foreign funded coup – they were all linked to a political party based in Moscow. Russia accuses Saakashvilli of deliberately stirring up anti-Russian sentiment.