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Georgians gather against Russia

Latest update : 2008-09-01

As European leaders gathered in Brussels to discuss possible measures against Russia, tens of thousands of Georgians gathered in Tbilisi Monday to protest against Russia's recognition of Georgia's two breakaway regions.

TBILISI - Tens of thousands of Georgians linked arms in a “human chain” through the capital Tbilisi on Monday in what organisers said was a show of unity against Russia’s backing for two Georgian separatist regions.

The protest snaked from Freedom Square through the city under cloudy skies, red-and-white Georgian flags flying from balconies along the main Rustaveli Avenue. Protesters shouted “Long Live Georgia” and “Stop Russia”.

The protest coincided with a meeting in Brussels of European Union leaders discussing possible measures against Russia over its military counter-offensive in Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia.

“It’s a day of unity,” said artist Natela Zarandia. “We want to show the entire world that Georgians are not afraid of anything, and I hope the world will hear our message.”

Russia went to war with its tiny ex-Soviet neighbour this month after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili launched a failed military offensive to retake South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.

Russia rolled tanks and troops over its southern border, crushed the Georgian offensive and pushed on into Georgia proper. The Kremlin last week recognised South Ossetia and a second breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

The West condemned the Russian operation as disproportionate but has so far shied away from measures to punish Moscow.

Russia has withdrawn most of its forces in line with a French-brokered ceasefire deal but has kept soldiers and equipment in “security zones” outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia Moscow says are designed to prevent further Georgian aggression.

Hundreds of people died and tens of thousands were displaced in the brief war, which erupted on Aug 7-8. Georgia alleges that militias acting under the wing of the Russian military have torched Georgian villages and killed civilians.

“The result of Russia’s aggression against Georgia is our unification,” musician Achiko Guledani, 34, said, standing in line holding hands with members of his band.

“Georgia was never as strong as it is now, and that’s why we’ll win,” he said.

Date created : 2008-09-01

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