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Georgia celebrates Independence Day

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, May 27
On May 26, Georgia celebrated its 25th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union. Georgia’s President, Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, and almost all Georgia’s high-ranking figures, diplomatic corps and foreign guests gathered at Freedom Square in central Tbilisi to celebrate with the people of the country.

According to the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, Georgia started its path to independence 25 years ago. He emphasized that Georgians should protect and respect others’ freedom.

“We need to create a state where each citizen is protected. This is part of our traditions and values. In this spirit, I declared 2016 as the year of the European state. This year we will take steady steps on the path of European and Euro-Atlantic integration,” said the President.

In his speech he congratulated Georgia's Abkhaz and Ossetian compatriots, millions of supporters of Georgia, emigrants, the Georgian Armed Forces and allies of Georgia. Margvelashvili paid tribute to the memory of fallen solders as well.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili also congratulated citizens inside and outside the country, living in the de-facto regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), and the country's allies who stood by Georgia in hard times.

Kvirikashvili especially congratulated the Georgian Armed Forces (GAF) and the soldiers who are fighting for global security in different peacekeeping missions.

“Our country will have many victories and success ahead and I am sure that we will succeed with our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers,” PM stated.

Georgia’s Minister of Defence Tinatin Khidasheli said this year that the Day of Independence was special as for the first time Georgia’s NATO hundred attended the ceremony. She also noted that Georgia does not belong to Georgians only and it is the homeland of citizens who have different religions and nationalities.

“Together we should fight for a powerful, better, happier and European Georgia,” said Khidasheli in her speech.

Moreover, in Tbilisi and five other places of Georgia - Ikalto, Vardzia, Kutaisi, Nokalakevi and Batumi - 434 recruits made an oath to serve their country with the Georgian Armed Forces. The Tbilisi ceremony, held at the statue of St. George in Freedom Square, was attended by British, American and Polish military officials.

Furthermore, Tbilisi hosted the Parliamentary Delegations from nine countries, including the Speakers, Vice-Speakers and MPs of the Parliaments of Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Israel, Czech Republic, Belorussia, Armenia and Turkey, as well as OSCE PA Special Representative to South Caucasus, visiting Georgia on the invitation of the Speaker, David Usupashvili, to attend the events dedicated to Independence Day.

The Delegations visited the Parliament-organized exhibition (Shota Rustaveli Hall, Parliament), exposing the historical documents, newspapers and photo material archived since Referendum of March 31, 1991, restoration of independence on April 9, 1991 and May 26, 1991 Presidential Elections.

Georgia received congratulations sent from world leaders and different countries all over the world. United States Secretary of State John Kerry released a special statement on behalf of President Obama and the American people that congratulated the citizens of Georgia, offering them full, unconditional support.

The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko congratulated Georgia on its special day by publishing a poster with the Georgian flag on his official Facebook account.

Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs congratulated Georgia on his official Twitter account and Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite shared a picture of Lithuanians celebrating Georgia’s independence.

Georgia’s Prime Minister received a letter of congratulations from his Azerbaijani counterpart, Artur Rasizade.

In connection with the independence day, many festivities took place throughout the capital and other regions. In Tbilisi, the program started with an oath-taking ceremony on Freedom Square at 12am. Pantomime street performances took place on Freedom Square, Rustaveli Avenue and Rose Revolution Square.

Several stages were erected on Rustaveli Avenue and hosted musical and dancing performances throughout the day. Freedom square hosted a special flower festival which lasted till 9pm.

At Freedom Square there was an exhibition of military vehicles, including American Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles which were recently used in the NATO-Georgia Noble Partner exercise.