The main ceremony marking Georgia’s Independence Day was held on Freedom Square in the capital city Tbilisi on May 26, 2016. Photo: PM’s office
Georgia’s marks Independence Day on May 26 with festivities and outdoor events in Tbilisi and other parts of the country launched with a ceremony on capital city’s Freedom Square opened by the march of Georgian, U.S. and UK army service members fresh from two-week long joint drills which were wrapped up at the Vaziani training area outside Tbilisi two days ago.
On this day 98 years ago Georgia declared independence, but three years later, in February 1921, the Bolshevik’s Red Army invaded the country. Georgia declared restoration of its independence on April 9, 1991.
Georgian army’s Iroquois helicopters fly over Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, carrying Georgian national flags during ceremonies marking Independence Day, May 26, 2016. Photo: President’s office
Military hardware, among them U.S. army’s M1A2 Abrams tank and Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, which participated in the Noble Partner joint exercises of the Georgian, U.S. and UK troops, are on display for public viewing on the Freedom Square. Various weaponry and military hardware of the Georgian armed forces were put on public display in various towns across the country.
The Georgian National Ballet Sukhishvili performs military dance, Khorumi, during the ceremony marking the Independence Day on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, May 26, 2016. Photo: President’s office
U.S. soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade, as well as a company from the UK’s 3rd Rifles, which were part of the Noble Partner exercises, marched on the Freedom Square.
A platoon of the Polish army honor guard, which arrived in Tbilisi specifically for this purpose, also participated in the ceremony.
The ceremony also included performances by the British army’s Parachute Regiment Band; the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band, and Latvian National Armed Forces Band.
British army’s Parachute Regiment Band performs during a ceremony marking Georgia’s Independence Day on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, May 26, 2016. Photo: PM’s office
Presence of the troops from the partner nations at the events marking Georgia’s Independence Day “proves that we are not alone – neither during celebrations nor in hard times,” Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli said in her speech at the ceremony.
“Our partners and friends have been standing beside us throughout these years and that will be the case as long as Georgia’s freedom needs it,” she said.
Georgian soldiers from the Alpha Company of 12th Light Infantry Battalion of IV Mechanized Brigade were standing alongside with the U.S. and UK troops.
Georgian soldiers from the Alpha Company of 12th Light Infantry Battalion of IV Mechanized Brigade, which is part of the NATO Response Force, march during a ceremony marking the Independence Day on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, May 26, 2016. Photo: PM’s office
On May 23 this Georgian unit completed formal process of becoming a full-pledged member of the NATO Response Force, passing the “NATO Evaluation Level 2”, which is identical to the evaluations NATO nations conduct for their own military units.
“For the first time NATO’s Georgian company stands on the Freedom Square and this is among those historic events, which will help us to return back to our European and Euro-Atlantic family,” the Defense Minister said.
The oath-taking ceremony of 432 newly recruited Georgian service members was held simultaneously at six locations across the country, including on the Freedom Square in Tbilisi.
U.S. soldiers participate in a ceremony marking Georgia’s Independence Day on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, May 26, 2016. Photo: PM’s office
In his speech at the ceremony, President Giorgi Margvelashvili said that since the restoration of independence twenty five years ago, Georgia started moving towards freedom.
“This movement towards freedom implies creating free society of free people. Not only free people themselves are free, but they also defend the freedoms of others. We should build the state in which the freedoms of each and every individual will be protected,” the President said.
The President also congratulated Georgia’s Independence Day to “Abkhaz and Ossetian compatriots.”
In his speech he also paid tribute to a Georgian citizen, Giga Otkhozoria, who was shot dead by Abkhaz border guard serviceman on the Georgian-controlled territory at the Khurcha-Nabakevi crossing point between the breakaway Abkhazia and rest of Georgia on May 19. President Margvelashvili said that Otkhozoria was a victim of “occupation”.
Celebration events on the occasion of the Independence Day were called off in the town of Zugdidi where funeral ceremony of Otkhozoria was held on May 26.
A platoon of the Polish army honor guard marches during a ceremony marking Georgia’s Independence Day on Freedom Square in Tbilisi, May 26, 2016. Photo: President’s office
PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili said in his speech at the ceremony on the Freedom Square: “Our homeland has seen many victories and pain, but achievements made so far guarantee that we will live in better and united Georgia. Huge successes and victories lay ahead for our country in benefit of our citizens. I am convinced that we will achieve these successes together with our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers; we will overcome pain and continue moving towards better future together.”