Saakashvili denies fitting ejection seat to personal jet

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The Independent Online

Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili has had a personal ejection seat installed on board his personal jet, according to an opposition politician.

The Labour Party's Iosif Shatberashvili said the President had a special ejection capsule built into his jet following last month's crash that killed the Polish President Lech Kaczynski last month. The upgrade of the presidential Bombardier Challenger jet cost about $7m (£4.8m), he said. Mr Saakashvili's spokeswoman, Manana Mandzhgaladze, dismissed the claim as false.

Mr Shatberashvili also claimed the President had reshuffled his bodyguards and hired a man to test dishes for his table to make sure they weren't poisoned.

Asked about changes in the presidential security detail, Ms Mandzhgaladze said she did not know about any but added that there could have been some regular rotation.

The Georgian President has never publicly talked about any threats to his life, but he has occasionally mentioned the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's reported threat to have him hanged.

Russia waged a brief war with Georgia in August 2008. The opposition has mocked Mr Saakashvili for his skittish behaviour during the conflict, when his bodyguards threw him to the ground during a visit to the war zone in anticipation of a Russian air attack.

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