Thursday, April 16, 2009

Protests in Georgia's capital spark new tension with Russia

First I have to question the coverage of Radio Free Europe

Georgia's Cage Revolution

These days, it seems, you can't have a revolution, without having a snappy, but evocative adjective: it started with the Rose Revolution, then came orange, tulip, and cedar, and last week, a tad prematurely, Moldova's "Twitter Revolution."

If protests in Georgia do end with the fall of Saakashvili, and journalists are looking for a good adjective, then one possibility is "cage."

Cages have become the symbol of the Georgian resistance. (We blogged before about a singer, whose brother is an opposition leader, performing in a cage.)

With protesters camped out in Georgia's city center, demonstrating against the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili, cages are dotted around the area where the protesters are camped out. (Photos here from our Georgian Service.)

"The cages have themes," RFE/RL's Georgian Service Director David Kakabadze says. "Some are for writers, some for scientists. And around them they have their respective audiences, poets are reading their poetry, musicians are singing. It has become a kind of theatrical performance."

-- Luke Allnutt

This is mindless blather.

Now back to the title of the thread.

Protests in Georgia's capital spark new tension with Russia

Although opposition leaders in Tbilisi blame Saakashvili for being duped into the August war, Ditsi villagers, like others interviewed by the Monitor along the border region, overwhelmingly blame Russia. The sentiment is underscored by the fact that Russian bombs destroyed their homes and Russian troops now occupy the land they once farmed. They hear shots fired nightly from across the border and live on edge, ready to flee at any moment.

"It wasn't Saakashvili's fault. The war started 20 years ago. The opposition are just idiots standing there. We don't have time for this," asserts Givi Lapach.

This is where the problem lies and that is with Russia.

Predon Kristasiashvili was forced to flee from Eredvi, a Georgian village in South Ossetia, along with all its other inhabitants on Aug. 10. The village was subsequently looted and torched. He lives with his family of nine in one of the 380 three-room refugee units built by the government in the outskirts of Gori.

Unemployed and with no fields to tend, Mr. Kristasiashvili and his neighbors live on handouts of macaroni, beans, potatoes, flour, salt, and sugar, as well as a token monthly allowance. He follows the demonstrations on TV and fears the return of Russia as he believes the Kremlin intends to "establish order" in Georgia.

"Now is not the time for this," he says of the demonstrations. The sentiment is echoed throughout the former "buffer zone," which was occupied by Russia until Oct. 9.

In a field between Tskhinvali and the Georgian village of Zemo Nikozi, a Russian tank is poised, its barrel aimed toward Georgian sandbags on top of the nearby cemetery. This tank and others along the border arrived on April 9, say locals and police.

"Nothing good will come of the protests," says Amiran Lomsadze.

Locals cannot tend their apple orchards due to water shortages and land mines. The presence of Russian tanks, which locals blame on the Tbilisi protests, only makes the situation more tense.

For apple farmer Gocha Mchedlidze, the solution to the Tbilisi protests is as plain as day: "When you harvest apples you've got to do it to the end. Let him [Saakashvili] finish what he started."

It is clear that Russia is pushing in on Georgia and doing so as NATO war games are planned to be conducted in Georgia in May.

Expect Russia to become more aggressive as talks of military exercises by NATO are discussed. And if Russia does become more aggressive, expect a tepid response from Obama.

No comments: