Georgia's attempted coup watchers can mark their calendars. The next alleged attempt to oust the government is going to take place between October and December this year, said the Georgian State Security Service.
"A certain group of individuals operating both within Georgia and outside its borders is conspiring to instigate instability and civil unrest with the ultimate goal of forcibly changing the government," Bacha Mgeladze, spokesperson for the security service told an emergency briefing on the morning of September 18.
He said that an internationally funded and orchestrated coup would be timed with the European Union announcing its verdict on Georgia's readiness to advance on its path toward membership of the bloc. Later this fall, Georgia is expecting to hear from Brussels regarding its bid to gain the status of EU candidate state. The response is eagerly anticipated in the ardently pro-European nation and a negative answer will likely lead to widespread public disappointment with the authorities.
A failure to get candidate status "will give the conspirators against the state a pretext to foment public unrest and tensions through the use of news networks at their disposal, and through exploiting the pro-Russian label that they have attached to the government," the security service said.
The service claimed that the coup leader is Ukraine's deputy military intelligence chief Gia Lortkipanidze, who served as the deputy interior minister of Georgia during Mikheil Saakashvili's presidency (2004-13). Lordkipanidze is wanted in his homeland on allegations of assisting the ex-president to smuggle himself from Ukraine to Georgia in 2021.
Security officials alleged that Mamuka Mamulashvili, the commander of the Georgian Legion that is fighting in Ukraine on the side of the Ukrainian authorities, is also part of the plot. Georgian fighters are currently being trained at the Ukrainian-Polish border to help Lordkipanidze carry out his plan, the Georgian security service claimed.
In comments to Georgia's TV1, Mamulashvili called the allegations "nonsense" and claimed that the Georgian government was targeting his legion as a favor to Moscow. "All of this looks like gossiping, as you make these grand claims without presenting any evidence," Mamulashvili said, speaking from Ukraine.
"What I think happened is that Moscow called the Georgian security services and asked them to create problems for our legion, to make sure we cannot freely come to Georgia," said Mamulashvili, who accuses the Georgian government of being secretly in cahoots with the Kremlin, an accusation that Georgian leadership ardently denies.
The security officials indeed did not present any evidence of a planned coup, but they further alleged that the Georgian fighters and young volunteers from Georgia were being trained in the revolution business by the Serbia-based organization CANVAS, which specializes in advising non-violent political upheavals.
To hear Georgian security officials tell it, the plan is to emulate Euromaidan – Ukraine's 2014 revolution – in Georgia. Tents and barricades will be set up in the central streets of Georgia and near key institutions. An explosive device will be detonated to spark clashes between protests and police, the security service says.
Many ordinary citizens and political commentators scoffed at the announcement, claiming that the ruling Georgian Dream party is trying to pre-empt protests that a failure to advance toward EU membership would be likely to trigger. "They've started working on discouraging public protests that will certainly take place if we don't get the [EU membership candidate] status," political commentator Vakhtang Dzabiradze told IPN news service.
Much of Georgian society is taking the coup conspiracy claim with a large grain of salt because it is not the first time Georgian Dream or the previous ruling establishment pulled out a coup scare. Georgian Dream warned of alleged plans to bring Europmaidan to Georgia several times, when it faced public protests. The previous governing party, Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement, spoke of Moscow-planned coup plots at times of political unrest.
"Hopes that such tactics are going to prevent something or scare someone are futile," Dzabiradze said. "It has never worked for the past 30 years."