Protesters march on Rustaveli Avenue on November 15, 2014. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Thousands of protesters were gathered in Tbilisi center on November 15 at a rally organized by the opposition UNM party against what it calls is Georgian government’s “inaction” amid threat of “annexation” of Georgia’s breakaway regions by Russia.
In his address via video link from Kiev, ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who is chairman of UNM party, told protesters, gathered on the Rustaveli Avenue outside the Parliament, that it is now time “for the entire nation to stand united and to tell, before it is not too late, to [ex-PM Bidzina] Ivanishvili that the Georgian nation does not share his dream.”
UNM announced about the intention to hold the rally late last month after Russia-proposed new treaty on “alliance and integration” with breakaway Abkhazia was unveiled and which the Georgian Parliament condemned as “an attempt to annex occupied Abkhazia.” UNM said that it was also going to protest against what it calls the Georgian government’s policy of appeasement vis-à-vis Russia, which, the opposition says, has led to removal issue of the Georgian occupied territories from the international agenda.
Protesters, who were also joined by UNM supporters from some other towns, marched from Rose Square towards the Parliament building on the Rustaveli Avenue, holding a huge banner reading: “Stop Russia.” Some protesters were also holding posters “No to Annexation”, as well as EU, U.S. and Ukrainian flags along side with the Georgian flags, and a huge NATO flag was stretched in the middle of the protest venue at the Parliament.
A protester at UNM-organized protest rally in Tbilisi holds Ukrainian and EU flags as demonstrators, carrying a huge banner reading “Stop Russia”, march on the Rustaveli Avenue on November 15, 2014. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
UNM MP Giorgi Gabashvili told the rally that the Georgian government is “deceiving itself, its own people and the entire world as if we are busy with mending our relations with the occupant.”
“No to annexation, down with the occupant, down with the collaborationist government,” MP Gabashvili said. “If the government does not revise its collaborationist policies, the verdict will be delivered and it will be delivered soon.”
UNM MP Irma Nadirashvili said: “I think that a political verdict has already been delivered against our government and these people, who are now standing here, will definitely executive this verdict in a democratic manner and it will happen very soon.”
“We came here because we have no hope in our government. We see slavish silence from our government while Russia prepares agreements for eventual annexation of Abkhazia and Samachablo [referring to breakaway South Ossetia],” she said.
Nika Melia, who was UNM’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate in 2014 local elections, told the rally: “The enemy, standing in 40 kilometers [referring to Russian troops in breakaway South Ossetia], will not be able to harm us, if we don’t have a collaborationist government in 400 meters from here [referring to a government building].”
“[Ex-PM] Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Russian money will never reign in Georgia; Georgia’s fate will never be solved in Moscow; Russia’s positions will never strengthen in our country,” he added.
View of the protest rally venue where two huge screens were installed through which ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili address supporters via video link from Kiev, November 15, 2014. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
When ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is wanted by the Georgian authorities on multiple criminal charges, appeared on a huge screen installed at the protest venue, demonstrators greeted him by chanting: “Misha, Misha.”
Speaking via video link from the Ukrainian capital, Saakashvili portrayed situation in Georgia as a struggle between two “conflicting models” – the one, he said, “which we believe in and another one, which Ivanishvili wants.”
Crossed out picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin and posters reading: “No to Occupation” seen at a protest rally in Tbilisi, November 15, 2014. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Saakashvili, who called the rally “march of dignity”, said that on the one hand there is Georgia, which “still struggles for its dignity” and on the other there is Ivanishvili, who wants Georgia to appease “bear” and “follow it obediently to its den.”
He said that “Ivanishvili’s Georgia” is “tailored to the dream of one provincial dictator”.
“On the one hand, there is Georgia, which speaks out loudly against occupation and for our rights, our aspiration to freedom, and on the other hand, they want Georgia, which does not believe that Russia has aggressive plans and intentions against us and other neighbors; on the one hand there is Georgia, which is taking a European path, which believes that only this path can lead us to freedom… and on the other hand, there is Georgia, which disgracefully coordinates which path to follow with Kremlin messenger [Russia’s deputy foreign minister Grigory] Karasin,” Saakashvili said, referring to talks Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze and Karasin.
UNM MP Giorgi Vashadze addresses protesters in Tbilisi center, November 15, 2014. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
“Ivanishvili’s Georgia is silent and our Georgia is making a noise, like the Rustaveli Avenue is making a noise today,” he said. “Ivanishvili’s Georgia is alone; we have a huge army of Georgia’s friends.”
“We should demonstrate to our enemy that its dream to break the neck to the idea of Georgia’s statehood with the help of the fifth column, tricks, bribery, intimidation, oppression, is doomed to failure once and forever and we will bury it.”
The rally was opened late afternoon with a moment of silence in honor of Kakha Bendukidze, who was behind anti-corruption and liberal economic reforms under Saakashvili’s administration, and who died on November 13 in London aged 58. The demonstration ended peacefully without any incidents after Saakashvili’s address, followed by the national anthem of Georgia and the EU anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.