4 thoughts on “Georgian anti Saakashvili protests continue

  1. Fifth day of protest against Georgia’s Saakashvili

    Published: Monday April 13, 2009

    Georgia’s opposition moved Monday to boost pressure on President Mikheil Saakashvili with round-the-clock protests outside his office as up to 20,000 rallied for a fifth day to demand his resignation.

    “We have come closer to the president to tell him he must leave, that he must take the country out of this crisis,” opposition leader Irakli Alasania, a former Georgian envoy to the UN, told protesters outside the presidency.

    Thousands of opposition supporters have been protesting against Saakashvili since Thursday in the biggest anti-government demonstrations since a war with Russia last August.

    About 8,000 protesters broke off from the main rally outside parliament Monday and marched on the presidency, where they set up stages, blocked entrances to the building and vowed to stay indefinitely.

    Large-scale rallies will continue daily outside parliament, organisers said.

    Opposition leaders also announced an effort to shame Saakashvili by setting up mock jail cells across the capital Tbilisi.

    “Tbilisi will be turned into a city of cells, where prominent figures and politicians will be sitting until Saakashvili resigns,” said opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze, whose brother Giorgi Gachechiladze has spent nearly three months in a mock cell in protest against the president.

    Giorgi Gachechiladze, a prominent singer, has become an opposition hero for his time in the cell, where his every move is recorded and shown daily on an anti-government television channel.

    Opposition leaders have sought to ratchet up pressure on Saakashvili through a campaign of “civil disobedience,” including daily marches to the office of the president and state broadcaster that paralysed traffic in the city centre.

    The number of protesters dropped significantly from some 60,000 on Thursday to fewer than 4,000 over the weekend, but rose again on Monday as the opposition vowed its new wave of actions.

    Protesters have also permanently blocked Tbilisi’s main street, Rustaveli Avenue, and organisers have vowed to spread demonstrations across the country.

    Although both the government and opposition have promised to keep the demonstrations peaceful, tensions are running high and some fear the protests could turn violent.

    Tensions flared late Saturday when the opposition blamed the authorities for an attack by unidentified assailants on their protest venue that left equipment smashed and banners torn.

    http://rawstory.com/news/afp/Fifth_day_of_protest_against_Georgi_04132009.html

  2. Apr 17, 4:20 AM EDT

    Political theater flourishes in Georgia

    By MISHA DZHINDZHIKHASHVILI
    Associated Press Writer

    TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — They hop around like bunnies to mock their president, step into cages to vent claims of political repression, and recite poetry at the top of their lungs.

    Georgians have long been famous for their theatrical flair, and they are putting it on ample display in more than a week of street protests against President Mikhail Saakashvili.

    While demonstrators stand for hours listening to rousing political speeches, the sidelines of the protests have become a stage for whimsical performance art.

    Metal cages representing prison cells have been set up at the main protest sites, and another one appeared in front of the grand Rustaveli Theater. From inside the cage, actors proclaimed that “something is rotten in our kingdom” – a nod to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

    The cages were inspired by a reality show featuring singer Giorgi Gachechiladze, who “imprisoned” himself in a “cell” at a local television studio.

    Gachechiladze, whose brother is an opposition leader, began his protest in late January and said he would not come out until Saakashvili resigned.

    Protesters have pelted Saakashvili’s official residence with carrots, released a bunny onto its grounds and performed a circle dance, hopping around and holding up their fingers to represent long bunny ears – all a way of saying the president acted like a scared rabbit during Georgia’s August war with Russia.

    Saakashvili has been mocked for his skittish behavior when visiting the war zone, when his bodyguards threw him to the ground in anticipation of a Russian air attack.

    The Georgian army was quickly routed in the war, which resulted in the loss of territory and the stationing of Russian troops even closer to Georgia’s capital. Saakashvili’s handling of the war is a main cause of public discontent.

    Footage of him chewing on his tie before a BBC television interview in August has inspired protesters to hang dozens of ties on the fence around his residence.

    The U.S.-educated lawyer – who came to power five years ago promising economic and democratic reforms – has also been accused of using heavy-handed methods to suppress dissent and of living lavishly while many of his countrymen suffer in poverty.

    Saakashvili himself is known for a fondness for the dramatic.

    He brandished a rose as he and his supporters stormed parliament during Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution. After then-President Eduard Shevardnadze fled the building, Saakashvili ostentatiously drank from his tea cup.

    Georgian directors and actors were some of the best-loved artists throughout the Soviet Union. But only in Georgia was the tradition of political satire allowed to flourish as early as the 1960s, when theaters began putting on plays that criticized Soviet life.

    “When directors would arrive from Moscow they would say, ‘oh, are we no longer in the Soviet Union?’” recalled prominent director Keti Dolidze. “The virus of freedom and protest has always been part of the Georgian people and Georgian art.”

    Georgians will tell you theater is part of the national character.

    “If 10 people are sitting at a table, even if they are drinking only tea, one will recite poetry, one will sing a song and another will play the guitar,” said Leo Melikishvili, a film director. “You’ll think you’re sitting with a group of actors, but it will turn out that not one is an actor.”

    Saakashvili, now 41, was once an overwhelmingly popular figure, winning the 2004 presidential election with more than 96 percent of the vote. Young, energetic and colorful, he was a welcomed change after Shevardnadze, a graying veteran of the Communist era.

    But by 2007 Saakashvili faced increasing opposition and called an early election for January 2008, which he won with 53 percent of the vote.

    Then as now the opposition has been weakened by its inability to unite behind a single charismatic leader who could challenge Saakashvili on the political stage.

    The current protests have more than a dozen leaders, all with their own political party. They said Thursday they would keep some of their activists at the main protest sites through the long holiday weekend, when the predominantly Orthodox Christian country celebrates Easter.

    The mass protests were to resume in full force Tuesday, they said.

  3. Russia’s Medvedev warns NATO over Georgia war games

    Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:35pm EDT

    Guy Faulconbridge

    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO Friday that planned military exercises in neighboring Georgia were an attempt at muscle-flexing by the Western alliance that could hinder efforts to mend ties.

    Russia fought a brief war with Georgia last year and is vexed by what it describes as NATO support for the ex-Soviet state, a crucial transit route for Caspian Sea oil and gas to Europe long controlled by Moscow.

    NATO says it does not understand why Moscow is upset by the long-planned exercises involving 1,300 troops from 19 countries from May 6 to June 1.

    “This is the wrong decision, a dangerous decision,” Medvedev told a news conference at his state residence outside Moscow.

    “Decisions of this kind are aimed at muscle-flexing,” he said. “Such decisions are disappointing and do not facilitate the resumption of full scale contacts between the Russian Federation and NATO.”

    Tensions over Georgia have been running high since Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s failed bid to retake the pro-Moscow breakaway region of South Ossetia in August.

    Russia repelled the attack but provoked international condemnation for driving its troops further into Georgian territory and then recognizing South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

    Georgia’s Foreign Ministry accused Russia of “yet another undisguised attempt to impose its will on the international community and to interfere in the internal affairs of the sovereign state of Georgia.”

    “Russia’s actions clearly indicate that its aggression against Georgia has not come to a halt for one day,” it said in a statement.

    Abkhazia’s separatist leader Sergei Bagapsh said the region was reinforcing its border with Georgia and confirmed earlier announced plans to host a Russian naval and an air base, adding that the deal with Moscow would be signed “fairly soon.”

    “Because Western nations will now hold their exercises — allegedly to support Georgia — we will hold similar exercises (with Russia) in response, both in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Bagapsh told a news conference in Moscow.

    “Georgia must decide for itself how it wants to exist — at the epicenter of fighting or as a stable and peaceful state.”

    WAR GAMES

    NATO cut all formal ties with Russia as a result of Moscow’s intervention in Georgia, but earlier this year they agreed to resume relations.

    NATO says the exercises, to be held 20 km (12 miles) east of the capital Tbilisi, will be based on a fictitious U.N.-mandated, NATO-led crisis response operation and will not involve heavy weaponry.

    “We will follow what happens there in the most thorough manner and make certain decisions if needs be,” Medvedev told reporters.

    But NATO officials and diplomats in Brussels expressed surprise at Moscow’s sharp reaction to the exercises, which were planned last year.

    Russia was fully informed and as a NATO partner country had been free to participate, they said.

    NATO officials said Russia had not raised the matter in a meeting which set the date for resuming the NATO-Russia Council, a forum for consultation, consensus-building and joint action on security issues.

    They said Medvedev’s comments, following earlier Russian complaints this week, could be intended to deflect attention from much larger military maneuvers Russia has been conducting off the coast of Georgia.

    The Pentagon Thursday said that Russian objections were nothing new and Georgia has insisted the exercises go ahead. NATO member Italy sought to allay Russian fears Friday.

    “There is no desire by NATO to irritate the Russian Federation,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Reuters. “We are not interfering or intervening in any way.”

    One NATO diplomat said it was difficult to predict how tough a line Russia would take on the NATO exercises in Georgia, saying, ahead of this weekend’s Orthodox Easter: “It could be something that will disappear with the Easter eggs.”

    Russian officials have said NATO exercises indicate Western support for Saakashvili, who has faced days of protests by thousands of demonstrators who say he should resign for blundering into a war with Russia and crushing freedoms.

    (Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Phil Stewart in Rome and Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow, edited by Ralph Boulton)

  4. Pingback: Georgian soldiers revolt against Saakashvili regime | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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