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    Georgian army unit refusing to obey orders after coup reports

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    An armored infantry battalion refused to obey orders at the Mukhrovani military base outside the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Tuesday amid reports of an alleged military coup plot, Georgia's defense minister said.

    TBILISI, May 5 (RIA Novosti) - An armored infantry battalion refused to obey orders at the Mukhrovani military base outside the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Tuesday amid reports of an alleged military coup plot, Georgia's defense minister said.

    David Sikharulidze said the revolt occurred after the Interior Ministry announced earlier on Tuesday that it had uncovered a plot within the military to stage a coup.

    The ministry said that the coup had been organized by former senior military officials with links to Russia's security services.

    Speaking at a news briefing, Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said: "The plan had been coordinated with Russia and was aimed at disrupting the NATO-led military exercises [in Georgia] as a minimum and staging a military coup across the country as a maximum."

    Russia earlier said holding the drills in Georgia after last August's war over South Ossetia was "an open provocation" that could have negative reverberations. The exercise is due to begin on Wednesday.

    Russia and Georgia fought a brief war, with Moscow repelling Tbilisi's offensive on pro-Russian South Ossetia.

    The ex-Soviet republic's capital has for weeks been subject to opposition protests demanding President Mikheil Saakashvili's resignation over the war and his backsliding on democracy.

    Utiashvili said the plotters had received funding from Russia, and one former military official has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the coup attempt and several others are now wanted in connection with the incident.

    Another Interior Ministry official, Shota Khizanishvili, said military police have cordoned off the base, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Tbilisi.

    The Imedi TV channel said Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili was due to arrive at the base for talks with military personnel. The ministry has not confirmed the report.

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