- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 5 May 2009 16.21 BST
Earlier today Georgia's government said that a mutiny had broken out at the Mukhrovani army base near the capital, Tbilisi, in what officials initially described as an attempted coup with Russian backing.
But Georgian officials later backed down and said the plotters were in fact intent on disrupting Nato military exercises set to begin tomorrow in Georgia.
The mutineers handed over their weapons and surrendered after speaking to the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, who suggested that force could be used against them if they refused to hand themselves in, an interior ministry spokesman said.
However, a leading opposition party in Georgia dismissed the claim of an attempted coup, while a top Russian diplomat branded the allegation as "crazy". Russia, which last August fought a war with Georgia, said that Saakashvili was trying to shift the focus away from his domestic problems. Georgia's opposition party described the incident as "a show" to deflect attention from protests against the president.
Georgia's defence minister, David Sikharulidze, said the commanders of the military base, 12 miles from Tbilisi, had been dismissed and the soldiers confined to barracks.
Saakashvili said in a televised address that the government was taking the mutiny seriously but it was an isolated incident. He said the situation in the country was under control.
Georgia's former defence minister, Giya Karkarashvili, told reporters in Tbilisi he was sceptical of claims of a planned coup attempt, suggesting they were fabricated by the government to dampen opposition.
"Today Georgia is in the hands of sick people, who write the scenario themselves, play it themselves, then make a movie and show it to people for intimidation purposes," Karkarashvili said.
Russia's Nato envoy, Dmitri Rogozin, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the allegations were "crazy".
Shota Utiashvili, an interior ministry spokesman, claimed the officers had been working in league with Russian special forces and had planned to launch the uprising tomorrow to coincide with the start of military exercises in Georgia co-ordinated with Nato.
Giya Gvaladze, former head of a special forces group called Delta, was named as leader of the plot and Utiashvili showed undercover video footage in which Gvaladze allegedly discussed his plans with co-conspirators, saying: "The Russians will come to help us, 5,000 people all together."
In tomorrow's exercises, around 1,000 soldiers from more than a dozen Nato member states and partners will practise "crisis response" at a Georgian army base east of Tbilisi, around 44 miles from the nearest Russian troop positions in South Ossetia.
The exercises at a former Russian air force base in Vaziani are seen as a signal from the 28-member alliance that, despite doubts over the promise of eventual membership, Georgia has not been forgotten.
Georgia has been plagued by unrest since last summer's disastrous war with Russia, with thousands of citizens taking part in mass protests demanding the resignation of Saakashvili.
The president has been under pressure from the protests for several weeks, and the government's release of audio and video recordings alleging violent plots to seize power by his opponents have become part of the country's daily political struggle.
In March, nine members of Democratic Movement-United Georgia were arrested after being caught on surveillance video allegedly purchasing automatic weapons ahead of anti-government protests. The party's leader, former Saakashvili ally Nino Burdjanadze, described the claims as an "absurd" attempt to blacken the opposition.
Several senior figures in Saakashvili's government have defected to the opposition, accusing him of starting an unwinnable war that enabled Russia to strengthen its grip on the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The move provoked an invasion by Russia and the loss of additional territory previously controlled by Georgia. Since then, there have been growing opposition calls for Saakashvili to step down.
Opposition has grown steadily since the 2003 Rose Revolution, when a popular revolt in the former Soviet republic swept him to power.
In November 2007, the president used riot police and teargas to disperse an anti-government rally, prompting criticism from the US and the EU.
The Georgian opposition, however, remains weak and divided, and has so far been unable to capitalise on Saakashvili's alleged blunders. It also has no constitutional means of removing the president, who was re-elected for a second term in 2008 and is not obliged to step down until 2013.
Some Georgians are tired of political bickering and remain sympathetic to government calls for stability amid the global crisis, which the International Monetary Fund has warned will have a deeper impact in Georgia than first predicted.
When Saakashvili's youthful, mainly western-educated team came to power it was praised by the then US president, George Bush, as a "beacon of liberty". But Barack Obama's efforts to improve ties with Russia have fuelled speculation that his administration will distance itself from Saakashvili.
Nato and Russia last week resumed formal contacts suspended during the war when the west accused Moscow of a "disproportionate" response to Georgia's assault on separatists in South Ossetia.
However, the exercises, coupled with the expulsion last week of two Russian diplomats from Nato in a spying scandal and a Russian decision to take control of South Ossetia's borders, have further strained the relationship.