Georgian radicals 'financed by Russia': Saakashvili

6th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in an interview Monday that he had proof that opposition leaders whose street protests were broken up last month are funded by his arch-foes in Russia.

"Generally there is no doubt that they are financed from there," Western-backed Saakashvili said in the interview published by Russian weekly magazine The New Times.

Riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas to end five days of non-stop demonstrations in the ex-Soviet state's capital and two people were killed by an opposition motorcade speeding away from the crackdown.

The Georgian leader said that the authorities would supply evidence that radical opposition forces determined to stage a revolution received money from Moscow -- Saakashvili's bitter enemy which fought a brief war with Tbilisi in 2008.

"We have a lot of evidence and proof and yet more, I think, will be presented to the public that unfortunately they were really financed from Russia," he said.

Despite criticism from human rights groups that riot police used excessive force, Saakashvili defended the decision to disperse the protesters, who were armed with sticks and had vowed to disrupt a showpiece military parade.

"I do not think it was cruel... We had to deal with people who wanted violence," he said.

The protests, which had failed to attract mass support, were led by former senior official Nino Burjanadze, who has cultivated links with the Kremlin.

Saakashvili also accused Russian military intelligence of organising a series of bomb blasts and attempted attacks in Georgia over the past year, including an explosion near the US embassy in Tbilisi.

He said that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wanted to regain control over Georgia, which has taken a strongly pro-Western course since Saakashvili came to power, as part of a plan to "restore the Soviet Union".

Georgia accuses Russia of occupying two rebel regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Moscow has stationed thousands of troops after recognising the breakaway provinces as independent states after the 2008 war.

© 2011 AFP

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