Georgian opposition rallies against Russia-Abkhazia deal

By bne IntelliNews November 17, 2014

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Georgia's capital on November 15 to protest against a planned agreement between Russia and Georgia's separatist region of Abkhazia which envisages the creation of joint Russian and Abkhazian military forces.

The demonstrators denounced the deal as a step towards the annexation of the Black Sea region by Moscow and hit out at the current government slamming it as “collaborationist” for its alleged inactivity to react to the move.

The rally, of about 30,000 people according to some estimates, was organised by former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM). The UNM has been in opposition since losing the 2012 parliamentary election to the Georgian Dream party, which was founded by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia. Ivanishvili resigned as prime minister in November 2013 and appointed then-Minister of Interior Irakli Garibashvili.

The protesters marched through the capital and then gathered in front of parliament in the centre of Tbilisi, waving national flags and holding banners that read “No to occupation!” “No to annexation!” and “Stop Russia!” Numerous Ukrainian flags reaffirmed Georgia’s backing of Ukraine regarding Moscow's decisions to annex Crimea and support the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Addressing the crowd via video-link from Kyiv, Saakashvili, who has been out of the country since November 2013, accused government officials of taking advice from Moscow and failing to defend national interests, obediently “bowing their heads and following the (Russian) bear”.

In a statement released on November 14, Prime Minister Garibashvili sought to deflect such criticism by saying that the government is aware of the threat posed by the Russia-Abkhazia deal and has appealed to the West to help oppose it.

Abkhazia has been running its own affairs since a separatist war in the early 1990s. Following a brief war with Georgia over the country’s other breakaway region, South Ossetia, Moscow recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia and bolstered its military presence in both regions.

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