Tbilisi: Controversial NATO military exercises in ex-Soviet republic Georgia ended Monday with Tbilisi hailing the drills as a success despite internal unrest and fury on the part of Russia.
“Despite the tense internal political situation, Georgia has managed to very successfully fulfil its obligations within the framework of partnership with NATO,” Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze said in televised remarks.
The exercises were held amid political uncertainty in Georgia as opposition supporters have protested for weeks to demand President Mikheil Saakashvili’s resignation.
They had also prompted a furious reaction from neighbouring Russia, which last year fought a brief war with Georgia over the rebel South Ossetia region and vehemently opposes Georgia’s ambitions to join NATO.
Saakashvili’s domestic opponents accuse him of mishandling the war with Russia and of becoming increasingly autocratic since taking power after the peaceful Rose Revolution in 2003.
Minor clashes have broken out between police and protesters, raising fears of wider unrest.
The day before the exercises began, Georgia also said it had peacefully put down a mutiny at a military base outside Tbilisi aimed at disrupting the drills. Georgia initially accused Russia of backing an armed coup — an accusation Moscow described as “insane.”
The month-long drills — involving about 1,100 troops from 10 NATO countries and six of the alliance’s partner countries — were aimed at improving the way nations operate together in crisis situations under a UN mandate.
The exercises included “command post” drills done almost exclusively on computers and field exercises designed to provide training on peacekeeping operations.