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Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 13:02 UK

Georgia mutiny suspect shot dead

Georgian tanks outside Tbilisi (5 May 2009)
The mutineers were members of a tank batallion based at Mukhrovani

Georgian police have shot dead a man suspected of playing a key role in a mutiny at a military base earlier this month, the interior ministry has said.

Gia Krialashvili was killed in a shoot-out with police as they tried to arrest him in a western suburb of Tbilisi, it said. Two other suspects were wounded.

All three men have military backgrounds and are suspected of masterminding the brief mutiny at Mukhrovani on 5 May.

The rebellion came amid weeks of anti-government protests in Tbilisi.

The opposition has been calling on President Mikhail Saakashvili to resign, saying he has undermined democratic freedoms, and criticising his handling of the brief conflict with Russia over South Ossetia last August.

Some 2,500 protesters marched through the capital on Thursday.

'Hiding'

An interior ministry spokesman said gunfire had broken out in the suburb of Gldani at 0100 on Thursday (2100 GMT on Wednesday), where the three wanted men had been hiding from police.

Georgia opposition protest in Tbiilisi (20 May 2009)
The rebellion came during weeks of anti-government protests in Tbilisi

He said that the suspects had fired first, but that Mr Krialashvili had died in the ensuing exchange of fire.

The two other men, Koba Otanadze and Levan Amiridze, have been taken to hospital though their wounds were said to be "not life-threatening". A lawyer for the two wounded men said he had been prevented from visiting them.

Officials say they believe Mr Otanadze was the mastermind behind the mutiny among a tank battalion at Mukhrovani two weeks ago.

At the time, the government said the plot was part of a wider Russian-backed rebellion whose aim was to destabilise this month's Nato-led military exercises in Georgia or to oust President Saakashvili.

Opposition leaders denied this and said it was staged by the authorities to distract attention from planned opposition roadblocks around the capital that day.

There has been no independent verification of either account.



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