The Interior Ministry released series of secretly recorded video footage and audio tapes on May 26 and May 27, which the police said suggest on intention of some organizers of the recent protest rallies “to change the government through violence and public disorders.”
Shota Utiashvili, head of the Interior Ministry’s information and analytical department, said “no one is yet arrested on these charges.”
“But the investigation is ongoing,” he said.
On May 26 the Interior Ministry released an audio tape of a conversation between Nino Burjanadze, ex-parliamentary speaker and a key figure behind the recent street protests, and her 25-year-old son, Anzor Bitsadze, who was actively engaged in the recent protests. (Recording with English subtitles available on the Interior Ministry’s website).
There are phrases in the conversation like, Bitsadze telling her mother: “If you take responsibility than it is worth of going even to civil war”; he then mentions that it might be worth of dong it at the expanse of life of 100 and 200 people.
The two also discuss public attitudes towards Russia with Burjanadze tells her son, that the society is polarized and that half of respondents do not perceive Russia as enemy.
Then the two discuss Egypt-type scenario with Bitsadze telling Burjanadze that there should be a transitional government. “Why do you need the [People’s] Assembly [a movement, which was leading the rallies with the support of Burjanadze] in that case… In Egypt they put everything in order in three months, but they have a strong army there. Our army can also stand by you,” Bitsadze says, but also adds that even if that happened it would not help as the Georgian army is not capable of anything. “Forget the army,” he said.
“The police won’t overpower us,” Burjanadze says. “Do you think that Kojori battalion will open fire on us?”
“No, that’s nonsense. The Kojori battalion may block your way, put tanks and armored vehicles there, but it won’t fire a shot,” Bitsadze says.
“Why are you so sure?” Burjanadze asks.
“You know what? If the Kojori battalion shoots we will repel the first attack and then let it [the battalion] go and deal with the GRU [Russian military intelligence] special task force,” Bitsadze says.
Burjanadze did not dispute authenticity of the voices heard in the recording; she, however, said on May 26, that she doubts the recording is “fully authentic”, suggested that the recording and phrases used in the conversation was edited in a way to create misleading impression.
“This is the authorities’ attempts to somehow divert attention from the crime they have committed [referring to the break up of the protest rally],” Burjanadze said. “The recoding contains phrases saying that several hundred people may die if the homeland needs. It was not a desire, it is a conversation that if my homeland needs it I must die for it.”
On May 27, the Interior Ministry released secretly recorded video footage, showing a group of men, including Badri Bitsadze, husband of Nino Burjanadze and ex-chief of border police, sitting at a table said to be a restaurant. The group is discussing mobilization of “well-organized” supporters with Bitsadze saying that “we should know how exactly how many fighting-men” would be available. “If we know that there are not 500 and there are 50, we will make a planning based on those 50,” Bitsadze says.
One of the key figures in the People’s Assembly, an opposition politician Irakli Batiashvili’s voice is also heard in the footage saying that it would be impossible to prevail over 3,000 well-organized, experienced people, with the back-up of a large number of protesters. Batiashvili, how was present at the rally outside the Parliament when the riot police dispersed the protesters, has been missing since then, according to his family. The Interior Ministry said that it was not aware of Batiashvili’s whereabouts and it had no intention to arrest Batiashvili.
Before the launch of the rallies the People’s Assembly, an opposition movement with Nino Burjanadze a key figure in it, established as its wing an organization called “Sworn-in-Brothers”. The declared goal of the group was “to protect People’s Assembly supporters and activists from the authorities’ harassment and terror.”
The Interior Ministry also released a video testimony by retired general, Gia Uchava, who was one of the leaders of the “Sworn-in-Brothers”. Uchava was arrested at the protest venue outside the public broadcaster’s office on May 22.
In the video testimony to the police, Uchava says that Badri Bitsadze was coordinating a group of men, which he describes as “paramilitary group”, armed with sticks and wooden shields. He says that Bitsadze also offered to arm the group with slingshots and to use small “iron balls” as projectiles. He also says that there have been considerations about making Molotov cocktails and one of the possible scenarios was “to break into” the public broadcaster’s headquarters on the Kostava Street and into the Tbilisi City Council on the Freedom Square. He also mentions that “the information became available, that there was an armed group, which in case of necessity would have joined the rally and opened fire on law enforcement” officers.
In separate comments on May 27 Nino Burjanadze said again that the recordings were edited. She also questioned the authorities’ decision to release those recordings, which were recorded before the start of the protest rallies on May 21. She said that if the authorities knew that “violence and disorders”, as the Interior Ministry claims, were planned “why they have not taken proper actions to prevent it?”
“It is at least negligence on the part of the authorities, which is punishable, and maximum a treason,” Burjanadze said.