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A pro-government Georgian television station sparked widespread panic in the Caucasian country when it ran a spoof documentary claiming the Russians had invaded again. The half-hour show — which aired Saturday night — brought chaos to the country after it claimed Russian troops were already in the capital Tbilisi and aired “unconfirmed reports” that pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili had been assassinated.
Mobile telephone networks crashed, cinemas emptied as parents called their children home and people spilled out on to the street of towns and cities across the country to seek safety. But the report on Imedi-TV — once Georgia’s leading independent station until Saakashvili took it off air following the death of its owner, opposition figure Badri Patarkatsishvili in 2008 — was nothing but a hoax, apparently aired by a pro-government station in an attempt to discredit the opposition before key municipal elections in May.
Georgia Media Production Holdings, which now owns the station, claims the broadcast was designed to show the “real threat” of how events in a fresh Russian invasion might unfold.