Misha’s iron hand

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is ruthlessly cracking down on the opposition, accusing it of collaborating with Russia

The sun was shining, marching music was playing, soldiers in modern uniforms marched across Rustaveli Prospekt on Thursday. They were followed by Hummer military jeeps and armored personnel carriers. At the end of the parade, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of independence of Georgia, light fighter planes thundered over the square in front of the Parliament. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Georgia’s independence, light fighter jets thundered over the square in front of the Georgian Parliament. President Mikhail Saakashvili, stood on the honorary tribune, his arm bent to the military grub.

Eleven hours earlier, the square had looked quite different. There were fogs of tranengas, demonstrators lay flat on the ground with their hands tied, many with bloody heads. The police was jolted from several sides with water cannons, tranengas and rubber bullets. The permit for the opposition rally expired at midnight. Within 15 minutes the square in front of the Parliament was brutally cleared.

The 300 demonstrators who were still in front of the parliament building at that time had an idea that the events were going to develop dramatically. Immediately before the police arrived, many had crossed themselves and kissed the ground. 90 people were arrested. Opposition leader Burjanadze was asked in an interview with Radio Echo Moscow on Thursday morning why the protesters were carrying clubs. "To protect himself", explained the opposition leader.

As a result of the night, 38 people were injured, including eight police officers, who had to be hospitalized. Two people were killed. A police lieutenant had clung to the turret of a hastily departing car and then got caught under the wheels. The car belonged to the motorcade of opposition politician Nino Burjanadze. The second dead is a 54-year-old man who is a member of the opposition Workers’ Party. He was also injured by a departing car. Burjanadze regretted the death of the two people and said that the car in which she had been sitting was not involved in the incident.

The Georgian Ombudsman for Human Rights, Giorgi Tugushi, stated on Thursday that the demonstrators in front of the parliament building had not behaved according to the law, but that the police action had been unacceptable. U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Bass said the excessive use of force in clearing the square in front of the parliament must be investigated. However, the diplomat also explained that some of the demonstrators were not interested in a peaceful protest. Bass also praised the Georgian government for offering protesters an alternative site for their rally.

Sharp tones came from Moscow, as expected. The spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said that Mikhail Saakashvili had violated the law "universal democratic norms deceased". The incidents had to be "on an international level" to be examined.

"Cooperation with the occupiers"

President Saakashvili justified the police action. In his speech at the beginning of the military parade, the Georgian president accused the opposition of trying to overthrow the government, "Mass unrest" . The scenario for this plan is "of our enemy and occupier" was written, referring to none other than Russia. The accusation that the opposition is in cahoots with Russia is a recurring one by the president. In November 2007, Saakashvili even declared a state of emergency after an opposition demonstration, because an auben-led coup attempt was allegedly looming.

As if to confirm that the riots were Russian-sponsored, the Georgian Interior Ministry published on its website Thursday an audio recording of a telephone conversation allegedly between opposition politician Nino Burjanadze and her son Anzor. In the conversation, Ansor tries to convince his mother that a civil war is inevitable. Nino Burjanadze answers cautiously: "There is already enough blood." Society is divided into two roughly equal halves, for and against President Saakashvili, says opposition politician.

In the intercepted conversation it is also suggested that the Russian military defense GRU will intervene in the dispute in the event of a civil war-like development. Burjanadze, who was speaker of parliament from 2001 to 2008 and has a powerful family clan behind her, has not yet commented on the recording of the conversation.

The opposition politician has never made a secret of her desire to relax relations with Russia. It had also made symbolic gestures. In December 2010, for example, Burjanadze attended an event in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at which a replica of a World War II monument blown up in Georgia was inaugurated. The 46-meter-high monument, which stood in the Georgian city of Kutaisi, was blown up by Saakashvili in December 2009, allegedly to make room for the construction of a new parliament building. In Moscow, the monument commemorating 300.000 Georgians, who died in the fight against Hitler’s Germany, reconstructed in a small version.

Hoping for the Western public

What happens now in Tbilisi?? The mood in the opposition is printed. Already on Saturday, 6,000 people demonstrated on Freedom Square in Tbilisi.000 people demonstrated on Freedom Square in Tbilisi (Caucasian Spitter). In order to attract the attention of the Western public, the demonstrators held placards with the inscription "Misha must leave".

Nino Burjanadze had declared at the rally that in Georgia one of Saakashvili "Provoked revolution started". That sounded reckless, because in 2007 and 2009 far more people, up to 100.000 citizens, demonstrated against the president. Nevertheless, there was hope, because the former Georgian defense minister Irakli Okruashvili, who lives in exile in France, had declared that he would resign on 25 September. May to Tbilisi and that he would not be "the last day of the ruling power" his. The ex-minister called on the army not to stand against the people.

However, the full-throated announcement by Okruashvili, who had fallen out with Saakashvili in 2006, was contradicted a short time later by a spokesman for the party "Georgian Party" recalled. Okruashvili will not come. It was not possible to agree with Burjanadze on a common approach.

The opposition suffered a heavy defeat with Thursday’s bloody night. But Saakashvili’s position has not become more stable either, because it is not marginal groups that keep rising against him, but parts of the Georgian elite supported by thousands of ordinary people.

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