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Opposition blocks Mtkvari embankments

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, May 22
The “radical” opposition blocked off the two embankments of the Mtkvari River on May 21 in a protest against the impounding of about 20 vehicles belonging to opposition leaders and activists the day before. The blockade lasted about 45 minutes and the opposition has promised to continue such forms of protest in future. “We will make surprises for the Government and not inform them in advance when exactly we are going to block city entrances and highways,” David Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rights Party, said.

Several incidents occurred on the embankments as ordinary citizens protested against the blocking of the road. Some drivers asked the protestors to let them pass as they were in a hurry. Former Parliament Speaker and now leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia Nino Burjanadze apologised for the discomfort Tbilisi residents might have experienced due to the blocked embankments. “Blocking the roads is our response to the unlawful action taken by the Government yesterday and the day before. It is important for people to see that the Government is trying to hook us with provocative steps. We are showing the utmost restraint, but I am afraid that all of this might make the situation very tense eventually,” Burjanadze said. David Gamkrelidze also apologized for the blocked roads and called on the citizens to stand with them at the rally. “The people who are not yet with the opposition should stand on the opposition’s side. We are not fighting for ourselves, we are fighting for Georgia, to establish stability and justice in the country,” he noted.

“The Government is playing with fire,” Nino Burjanadze said at the rally on May 21, “If we do not stop them the results of their actions will be very negative for the country. We do not want to create problems for ordinary citizens, but if we don’t we will not be able to force the Government to go,” she added.

Meanwhile EU Special Representative in the South Caucasus Peter Semneby has held another round of meetings with representatives of the “radical” opposition and the Government. After the closed door meeting in Tbilisi Marriott Hotel, Salome Zourabichvili from the Way of Georgia said she had informed the EU envoy about the “destructive” actions of the Government. She said that the Government’s actions towards the Georgian Army, as well as Georgia’s economy, are “destructive”. Zourabichvili noted that Semneby might meet Defence Minister David Sikharulidze on Friday.

“During the meeting with Peter Semneby the issues of media freedom and property rights and human rights abuses were discussed one more time,” Nino Burjanadze from the Democratic Movement-United Georgia said.

The EU Special Representative said that the meeting with the opposition was aimed at agreeing the rules of the game. He stressed the importance of transforming street actions into political processes and continuing dialogue. After meeting Parliament Speaker David Bakradze the envoy said he was “optimistic” about solving the problems in Georgia. He said the grounds for his optimism are the readiness of the opposition and the Government to resolve the problems. He said both sides want to calm the situation, but there are differences in the methodology for doing it adopted by both sides. Semneby said stabilization of the situation needs time.

As the EU calls for talks, radical opposition representatives say they are planning to continue the rallies for one more month. The opposition have already submitted a note to the Tbilisi Mayor’s office about their plan to hold rallies until June 26, their continuing demand for the resignation of Mikheil Saakashvili being cited in the note as the reason for these rallies. The opposition say they are going to mobilize about 100,000 demonstrators.

The “radical” opposition have already begun holding demonstrations in Georgia’s regions. The first protest rally in Batumi was held on Wednesday, ending with a concert by Giorgi Gachechiladze (Utsnobi). After the concert the demonstrators and opposition leaders marched to Kobuleti. Several hundred demonstrators also gathered in Zugdidi on Thursday. The opposition leaders called on Zugdidi residents to join in the action on May 26. Opposition leaders expressed their discontent at the small number of demonstrators in Zugdidi, but after the rally in the Samegrelo region, the opposition headed to Kutaisi.