President Saakashvili maintains that the deadly police action last May was necessary.

President Mikheil Saakashvili has no regrets about issuing the order which led to the police clearing the area in front of parliament the night before the Independence Day rally.

An opposition movement led by former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze had gathered around 300 people in the evening of 25 May, refusing to move and calling for the president to step down. When 3000 police surrounded the crowd, leaving them no escape route, the ensuing violence led to at least three deaths.

A number of human rights groups have criticized the police operation.

Mr Saakashvili shortly after claimed it was necessary in order to send a signal to the Kremlin, because the crowd of demonstrators was infiltrated by Russian military intelligence agents.

Today he defended his position in an interview with the Ukrainian tabloid Segodnya, and said he was sickened by watching on TV stories of authorities using force against the people.

-It should be understood what choices we had. And I believe we acted correctly. Judge for yourself. A group of provocateurs, which are financed from abroad — a fact they do not hide! — which has meager support, less than 1% of the electorate, take to the streets and say, ‘we will not allow you to celebrate the 20th anniversary of independence’, Saakashvili told the newspaper.

He went on the describe the police action as “minimal force”, and said all the police’s actions have been documented and studied, and noted that his forces behaved more professionally during the 26 May dispersal than on 7 November 2007, a day of major unrest in the Georgian capital when a private TV station was stormed by police and taken off the air.

-If there is any new unrest, and there probably will be if there is democracy, just look at Greece, they will act even more professionally next year, the president told Segodnya, a Russian-language newspaper published in Kyiv.