Scuffles have broken out in the center of the Georgian capital at a rally aimed at restoring Tbilisi’s diplomatic ties with Russia, after activists from a Western-positioned NGO tried to sabotage the action.
Police had to intervene outside the country’s foreign ministry in
Tbilisi when the "Free Zone" activist group, advocating for
Georgia’s relationship with the West and chanting “No to
Russia” and “NATO is our choice,” evidently started a
brawl with the "Eurasian choice – Georgia" coalition activists
holding a peaceful rally resumption of diplomatic ties with
The "Free Zone" activists surrounded the Eurasian choice supporters with barbed wire, which they said symbolized the actions of Russian border guards on the border between South Ossetia and Georgia. They also brought their opponents a tire labeled "Vaseline". A hassle followed, which was foiled by police as they separated the two sides, News-Georgia reports. After a short scuffle the protesters were dispersed.
"We came to the building of Ministry of Foreign Affairs solely for peaceful purposes – to urge our government to restore diplomatic relations with Russia. However, we were prevented from doing so by an organization founded by Saakashvili's party," Archil Chkoidze, the leader of Eurasian choice, told Mir24.
Ahead of the rally Chkoidze was quoted as saying that Georgia needs Russia to simplify the visa regime and improve the security of the country. The group also hoped to resolve disputes with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“We want our government to take into account the requirement as it is possible to restore the territorial integrity of Georgia and resolve conflicts only by restoring good relations with Russia,” Chkoidze said. “In any case, if we do not restore diplomatic relations with Russia, only Georgia will lose.”
“People often say it is impossible as there are three Russian embassies in Georgia. For example, Japan and Russia are disputing the Kuril Islands. Japan claims these islands are occupied by Russia, but does not break diplomatic relations.”
The Eurasian choice group also advocates holding a referendum on Georgia's foreign policy and its integration into the EU and NATO.
Georgian goods such as wine and mineral water are being sold in Russian stores again five years after diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi were crushed following a Georgian invasion of South Ossetia.
On August 8, 2008, Russia was forced to respond to a Georgian military offensive against South Ossetia. The surprise attack on the capital of Tskhinval resulted in the death of Russian peacekeepers, as well as hundreds of civilians.
The assault led to five days of hostilities, with the Russian military eventually advancing temporarily into Georgian territory before a ceasefire was brokered. Following the conflict, Russia voted to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states.
Georgia continues to oppose the independence of its former territories. Last month, Tbilisi sent a note of protest to Moscow over the Russian president’s visit to Abkhazia to commemorate five years of independence.