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Official Report Says Soviet Troops Planned Massacre in Georgia

May 28, 1989

MOSCOW (AP) _ Soldiers planned to massacre people during a pro-independence rally last month in Soviet Georgia and used clubs to beat the injured and the elderly, an official report says.

The report, issued by a Georgian commission that looked into the April 9 clash that left 19 dead, was circulated among deputies to the new Soviet parliament, which met during the weekend.

The report calls for the parliament, the Congress of People’s Deputies, to condemn the incident and determine who exactly was responsible.

″Otherwise,″ the report said, ″a shadow will be laid across the Soviet government as a whole.″

The report gives a horrifying account of troops’ behavior in the 4 a.m. clash with protesters. It also supports claims of Georgian activists who accused soldiers of extreme brutality.

Soldiers ″blocked crossings, surrounded citizens and beat them with clubs and shovels. They did not spare hunger strikers, girls, old women, doctors and Red Cross workers. They pursued people who were running away and beat the wounded even more, tearing them from the hands of medical personnel,″ the report says.

″We come to the conclusion that the action taken ... carries the signs of a punitive operation - a planned mass massacre, committed with special cruelty,″ the commission reported.

The panel, sponsored by the Georgian parliament, also said Georgian television announced a curfew the day after the clash only four minutes before it went into effect, so many residents were caught on the streets unaware. One young man was shot and killed for violating the curfew.

It said the Soviet media distorted coverage of the clash and its aftermath and it blamed local leaders for ″complete isolation from the people.″

A medical subcommittee’s findings repeated widespread criticism of the Defense and Interior Ministries for not telling doctors for several days exactly what sort of gas was used to control protesters.

Western doctors who conducted autopsies have said the gases, described as suffocants, caused some of the deaths.

Also, more than 4,000 people have required treatment, mainly for poisoning, and diagnosis and treatment would have been much easier if authorities had acknowledged earlier that they used a chemical agent, the report said.

A Soviet magazine recently carried an interview with Georgian chief Prosecutor Vakhtang Razmadze, who said representatives of the Communist Party, the government and the military attended the meeting at which the decision was made to use troops to break up the demonstration.

They included Georgian party chief Zhumber Patiashvili, who later resigned, General Igor Rodionov, the regional military commander, who is now a deputy at the Congress, and a deputy national defense minister.

The account was consistent with a claim made Thursday by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev at the Congress. He said he and other Politburo members found out about the decision to bring in troops only hours after the damage was done.

Protests began in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, in early April in response to demands by the Abkhazian minority in northwest Georgia to have their area transferred to the Russian republic.