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A new charge for confessed grenade thrower

Georgia says he shot, killed officer

TBILISI, Georgia -- A man who confessed to throwing a live grenade toward President Bush during a rally in Georgia was charged with premeditated murder yesterday in the killing of a policeman during a shootout that preceded his arrest.

Vladimir Arutyunian, who has been hospitalized since he was detained Wednesday, admitted in video footage shown Thursday that he threw the grenade that landed near a podium where Bush was speaking in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in May, officials said. The grenade malfunctioned and did not explode.

Both Bush and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili were on the podium when the grenade landed about 100 feet away.

Investigators were searching for a motive for the grenade incident after determining that the 27-year-old suspect has no connection with Russian forces, despite reports that Russian military uniforms were found in his house.

''I confirm categorically that he never served in our structures," said Colonel Vladimir Kuparadze, deputy commander of Russia's forces in Georgia. ''As to the Russian military uniforms, getting those in Georgia doesn't present any difficulty."

Russia has troops at two military bases in Georgia and their withdrawal, now scheduled for 2008, had been a tense issue. Georgia and Russia agreed in June on a withdrawal date.

A spokeswoman for the Georgian prosecutor's office, Khatuna Khvediashvili, said Arutyunian had been formally presented with the charge, although it was not immediately clear why it was for premeditated murder.

Arutyunian fled into nearby woods after the shootout Wednesday in which one policeman was killed in a village on the outskirts of the capital Tbilisi. The suspect was captured about an hour later and taken to a hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.

In footage broadcast by Rustavi-2 television from the hospital, Arutyunian signed a document relating to the charge in the presence of a state-appointed lawyer.

''I'll do my best to make his fate easier," said the lawyer Khatuna Kutateladze.

Arutyunian faces up to a life sentence under the charge.

There has been no indication of a possible motive for the throwing of the grenade, which cast a shadow over a visit meant to showcase the former Soviet republic's progress.

Arutyunian was refusing to answer questions, Tbilisi prosecutor Georgy Gviniashvili said.

The Interior Ministry said yesterday that Arutyunian was believed to have been a member of the Agordzineba party, which supported the leader of a region largely outside central government control.

Aslan Abashidze, the recalcitrant leader of the Adzharia region, fled to Russia last year amid rising street protests against his authoritarian rule.

The unrest erupted after Abashidze destroyed bridges linking Adzharia with the rest of Georgia and claimed that Saakashvili was preparing a military invasion.

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