There is outrage in Georgia over a fake TV report that caused widespread panic by claiming that a Russian invasion was underway.
Angry viewers besieged the private station Imedi TV when they realised the report was a hoax. It touched a raw nerve in a country where memories are still fresh of the five-day war with Russia in 2008.
Critics accused the channel of pro-government propaganda.
“The aim was to blacken people’s names and demonstrate who are the ‘true patriots’, said Nino Burdzhanadze, leader of the Georgian opposition. says. Some of President Saakashvili’s opponents recently met Russian leaders in Moscow and called for the two countries to restore ties.
“People won’t forgive it,” said Burdzhanadze, “Saakashvili was behind it”.
The President’s spokeswoman said the TV report should have carried a proper warning. The programme said it was a simulation of possible events, to show what the worst day in Georgian history might look like. But the information was lost on many.
Imedi TV used archive from the 2008 conflict when Russia crushed an assault by Georgia on the rebel region of South Ossetia. Russian tanks came to within 45 kilometres of Tbilisi.
The spoof programme prompted pandemonium by saying that this time they had entered the Georgian capital and that President Saakashvili had been killed.