A Georgian opposition leader said the bogus news report of a Russian invasion, broadcasted on Saturday, was intended to intimidate the opposition and tarnish its image over attempts to repair ties with Moscow.
The Democratic Movement - United Georgia party, led by ex-parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze, announced on Monday that it would file a lawsuit against the private Imedi TV channel, which reported that Russian tanks had invaded the capital Tbilisi and the country's president was dead.
"This story illustrates the true nature of our leaders, who don't care about consequences at all. That [fake report] threw the population into a state of fear and shock, but the aim of it was to intimidate the opposition and blacken its name," Burdzhanadze said in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor.
Ex-parliamentary speaker Burdzhanadze, who was a key ally of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in the 2003 Rose Revolution but later became a bitter critic of the government, said that the broadcast was a riposte to her recent visit to Moscow and talks with top Russian officials.
"For him [Saakashvili], any improvement in relations with Russia is negative. He wants to claim that he's not responsible for the bad relationship, that it's just impossible to talk with Russia on principle. With my trip, I tried to demonstrate that it may not be easy, but it is possible to talk with Moscow," she told the Boston-based daily.
Burdzhanadze is one of a growing number of Georgian opposition leaders seeking to start political dialogue between Russia and Georgia, saying that it "plays a crucial role in Georgian unity."
Georgian lawmakers loyal to Saakashvili earlier accused Burdzhanadze of "treason" over the visit to Moscow and talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"Everyone in Georgia knows that the boss of Imedi fulfills instructions given him by the president," she said.
Saturday's broadcast, which used the channel's normal news graphics, began with a warning that the program showed a sequence of possible events that could occur "if Georgian society is not brought together against Russia's plans."
The staged images and words rang true, however, when viewers who did not see the introduction took the report at face value. People from all over the country began to call each other and the TV studio to find out what was really happening.
MOSCOW, March 16 (RIA Novosti)