There is a strong military presence on Georgia’s streets, after President Mikhail Saakashvili declared a state of emergency to snuff out protests demanding his resignation. The Georgian Prime Minister said the authorities had thwarted a coup attempt. And the pro-western Saakashvili blamed Russian interference for the unrest. He recalled his ambassador to Moscow, and threw out three Russian diplomats.
The President went on TV to say Georgia must not become the stage for other countries’ “dirty geo-political escapades”, and he added that Georgian democracy needs the firm hand of the authorities. That firm hand included the use of special forces troops to storm the main opposition TV channel Imedi, which was then taken off air.
The government says all independent TV news will be silenced for the duration of the 15 day state of emergency.
Saakashvili’s desire to join NATO and his drive to regain sovereignty of two breakaway pro-Russian provinces have angered Moscow, which cut all transport links last year. The opposition says the President has grabbed too much power since taking office in 2003. They want him to call early elections, and stand down.
The EU, which Saakashvili wants to join, is sending its special envoy to meet all sides in the crisis.