Speeches & Statements

Georgian president addresses nation after unrest

On 7 November, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the nation following mass unrest and two protest rallies in the Georgian capital Tbilisi where police used water cannon, tear gas, and truncheons to disperse crowds. He said democratic rights and freedoms were respected and observed in Georgia, but the country could no longer tolerate "misfortunes" of the past. He explained that the actions that had been taken today by the authorities were normal actions taken by all democratic countries and the government had to resort to them to prevent "mass unrest" and "clashes". Saakashvili also said that Georgia now had "strong institutions" to cope with problems which he said had been brought on by Russia. He blamed some opposition representatives for their ties with the Russian special services and declared some Russian embassy staffers persona non grata. He called on the opposition to become engaged in dialogue with the authorities and urged the public to support the government in building Georgia's "bright future". The following is the text of Saakashvili's speech.

My sisters and brothers, my mothers and fathers, my children!

You know that not only as president but also as a person I do not have a more important vision, a more important value, and a more important aim in my life than my country, my people, and each of you. As president of this country and as one ordinary Georgian, who was born, grew up and will die in this country - Georgia, I am ready to sacrifice myself and my life for each of you immediately and without blinking, and to do all I can to make Georgia and each of its citizen happy.

Democratic rights and freedoms protected

Of course, I am extremely concerned about the events that have unfolded in the centre of Tbilisi. Demonstrations were under way here for several days. In every country, people have the right of demonstrations, and Georgia is a democratic country. Therefore, everyone has the right to hold demonstrations in Georgia. Everyone has the right to express his or her opinion within the limits of the law. Everyone has the right to express his or her pain, and, of course, as in every democratic country and even in countries that are developing fast economically, every person has pains and sentiments of protest in specific periods of their life, and everyone wants to share this protest, his or her opinion, and pain with the government, to express them publicly and tell the rest of the public about that. As a democrat and president and leader of this new democracy, I have always protected and will always protect fundamental rights within the framework of the law and will follow the democratic path. I will implement the right of expression, ensure that citizens fully realize their own potential, and provide protection in all aspects possible in a democratic country.

Therefore, when these demonstrations took place, they proceeded in Tbilisi, particularly their first days, as peacefully and calmly as in any normal democratic country in the world. This is not the government's merit, but the merit of thousands of people who periodically express their opinion. We are all obliged to prevent anyone from organizing a provocation, to give the situation a negative turn, and to create problems for our country. I would like to repeat once more that, freedom of speech within the framework of law in a democracy and other freedoms are the main driving force for all of us, because we all came to power through democratic processes and democratic elections, and until Georgia exists, all of us should do all we can to transform it into a democratic, developed, and European-type open society and an open country.

Dispersal of rally outside parliament justified

This morning, when Rustaveli Avenue was effectively empty - there were several dozens of people remaining there and blocking the road - the main thoroughfare that had been blocked for several days, which would probably not have been tolerated in normal and ordinary conditions in other countries. We decided that we should treat these people as mildly as possible.

In the morning, the City Hall and police decided to clean the avenue and restore traffic. At the same time, the authorities gave strict instructions to those concerned - the police and the City Hall - that, if anyone wanted to assemble outside parliament peacefully in conditions of restored traffic, when they would not hinder other people - children from going to school and people from moving in the centre of the city and be involved in their usual affairs, everyone had the right to assemble outside parliament, express his or her opinion, and strict instructions were given not to interfere with the people who would stay outside parliament, expressing their protest opinions in an ordinary manner. We have experienced this over many years and we were ready to continue the democratic process as usual.

However, later, they started blocking the road and clashing with the police again. After their leaders' appeals, all this developed into hand-to-hand fighting between some protesters and representatives of the Georgian power-wielding departments, who had received strict instructions to ensure using peaceful and civilized methods public order and normal life in the centre of Tbilisi, free movement of citizens, and not only the protesters' rights, which should naturally have been done, as they are our citizens, but also all other people's interests in our society.

Past "misfortunes" no longer possible in Georgia

Do we not remember the year 1991 [when protests against late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia developed into his ouster and civil war]? Do we not remember [events] starting with [protesters'] tents and various excesses, clashes, different sides' rallies, unrest, and all this developing into a coup d'etat, bloodshed, and the loss of control over territories. Our appeal is that such misfortunes should never be repeated in Georgia.

We are not a cursed nation. We are a very talented nation. We have proved to the world that we can manage processes and resolve issues in our country in a civilized manner. That is why it was our appeal that no one should ever be able to repeat the year 1991, the unrest of the civil war irrespective of various appeals, as the people who participate in the unrest now - I mean leaders - come precisely from that time and they were active participants in the events of that time within various opposed parties. This is why our task was to resolve all this peacefully within the framework of the law and to protect the law to the maximum extent possible.

Measures taken usual for democratic countries

I would like to stress that the Georgian Police and special-purpose detachments that acted in the centre of Tbilisi used all those means that police force uses in the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Switzerland, Estonia, and in all democratic countries, where it is the task of the police, on the one hand, to inflict minimum damage on the protesters even if they are most aggressive and radically-minded, and on the other, to protect public order and prevent mass unrest and clashes between various groups. We used all those means and not even a bit more. We behaved precisely in that manner - although our police is probably not so experienced, as police would have behaved in any civilized and democratic European country and the United States.

Therefore, there is nothing unusual in this in itself, but there is nothing agreeable in this either, of course. This is indeed a source for pain in my heart when a policeman's truncheon hits any citizen. A person trapped among the fleeing people is also a source for pain in my heart, as there were physical clashes in a lot of places. Of course, this is very unpleasant to watch. I would like to tell you that this will not bring anything good to our country, and this can bring only damage, because this will be seen all over the world.

Unrest inspired by Russia

Of course, our country's ill-wishers are quite merry now, because what world TV stations are broadcasting now is playing precisely in their hands. This is precisely what they have been saying for many years - that Georgia, despite its successes, peaceful development, and becoming stronger, is a very weak country, as they view it, as there will definitely be excesses and unrest there. However, at the same time, I would like to say that, in conditions where each of you is very important for me, neither my post nor this office or any privileges that they present mean nothing. Nothing at all. All of us should nevertheless assume immense responsibility for the mission that all of you have endowed me.

I want to speak about specific facts that preceded the events that are unfolding in Georgia and Tbilisi. We have heard over the past few months that mass unrest will without fail start in Georgia in autumn. We have received them from all intelligence sources that we have. We have received them from one foreign capital where we have friends too, and they have given us this information. I have heard reports that an alternative government was set up in Moscow. I have heard over the past six or seven months that Saakashvili and his government will collapse by the end of this year. I did not have the right not to approach this seriously although I was calm, because I was sure that they would never be able to create any serious problems, if only given the fact that our people were much more prepared and motivated not to allow such a thing. Unfortunately, it seems that I was indeed not right partially.

You saw footage that we already have on Georgian TV stations today and certain things were collected shortly before these events. The Russian Federation's foreign intelligence service and its representatives in Georgia have become very active lately. However, we had a number of other shots made earlier, as our services have been monitoring their activities in detail over all these months and years. We knew full well that, unfortunately, they have tried to find support among one radical part of political parties. Money, special means, and instructions have come here. We probably do not know everything that they have done, although most of it is known to our special services.

I would like to tell you that, in addition to the footage shown today, I have given instructions to show in the near future all other materials available to our special services. We will produce them on a massive scale for the entire world to see. I want everyone to see that Georgia - a young democratic country that is striving to unite its territories peacefully and to develop its economy, where we have 14-per cent growth in this year and which receives billion dollars of investments - will do all it can in order to have its development, success, and further growth continued. On the other hand, all of those forces were motivated to halt all this.

Yesterday [6 November] evening, the Russian foreign minister declared solidarity to potential participants in unrest in Tbilisi and promised them support. He referred to them as to people, but he implied quite specific people. At the same time, Mr Mironov, chairman of the Russian Federation Council, said publicly that mass unrest will start in the Georgian capital and other Georgian towns within the coming days. This is not a report from intelligence services. This was broadcast by a lot o world TV stations.

It is under such pressure that Georgia exists. They organized a lot of provocations against Georgia, bombed it by military force on a number of occasions - in Upper Abkhazia [on 11-12 March], in the middle of Georgia [reference to the 6 August Tsitelubani incident] - without being provoked at all. On Georgian territories that we do not control, the so-called Russian peacekeeping contingent constantly organizes mass provocations, which we witnessed a few days ago [in Ganmukhuri on 30 October]. Georgia is now facing the threat of a very serious unrest, this time in the Georgian capital and, unfortunately, now too - and we have disseminated documentary materials for the whole world to see - Russian residents are actively participating, along with top officials of the Russian Security Ministry foreign intelligence service. We know their names, we have their photos. Some of them are in Georgia and others are managing these processes from Moscow, and we have published documents to prove this through Georgian TV stations.

Moreover, one Russian oligarch [reference to businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili who has announced that he finances the protest rally] who has been dispatched to Georgia this time, has directly called on the Georgian public to overthrow the authorities and resort to mass anti-constitutional actions, which is not admissible and acceptable in any democratic country and is, on the contrary, an absolutely unclear and unacceptable event.

Of course, those people who supported all these events are good specialists and have major experience of organizing such things in conditions where mass unrest started in the city [Tbilisi] centre, where clashes took place, where people, including policemen, were attacked - dozens of policemen were beaten and a lot of police cars were damaged and destroyed, where absolutely innocent people found themselves in the middle of clashes and suffered damage, and where there is a real threat of provocations, including - God save us - some kind of armed provocations. I would like to tell you that, in such conditions, the Georgian government, I as a president, and Georgian power-wielding bodies will use all necessary measures to have democratic order established in all streets of Tbilisi and everything back within the framework of democratic dialogue and constitutional order.

Georgia strong enough to cope with problems

We have strong institutions. We have strong parliament, and the parliament chairwoman's position has been absolutely decisive. She has urged for calm today, yesterday, the day before yesterday. There were very interesting debates in parliament yesterday and parliament members urged everyone to engage in dialogue and become consolidated. We have a judicial system that functions well and can cope with any such problem.

I completely agree with the statement by His Holiness Georgian Patriarch [Ilia II's] appeal for calm and his appeal not to allow any destructive foreign force to use things that are under way for its own purposes.

However, my dear people, my friends, a big falsehood machine is now being operated, and a big country that has a lot of money and major expertise in the issues of causing unrest in neighbouring countries and using unrest for its own purposes is using all resources for provocations. The entire machine is being operated and, of course, we should be very cautious and vigilant.

Georgia facing major threats

There are a lot of social problems in our country. There are a lot of grieving people, and I understand the problems of all these people with my heart and soul. It is our everyday concern to resolve and improve the problems of all these people and to provide a better future for them. However, if we allow these people to destabilize Georgia now, no one will have any chance, none of these people, none of the elderly, or our youths. There will be no chance for our future. We will finally lose the chance of restoring Georgia's territorial integrity, because we are now facing a very complicated geopolitical dilemma, where the issue of recognizing Kosovo is on the agenda, where there are open threats that Abkhazia may be annexed or recognized, and where the annexation of South Ossetia has effectively been carried out, since it is being governed by a few generals dispatched from Russia. Allowing mass unrest, mass clashes, and violence in Georgia in these conditions means that all of us will find ourselves and our country facing an immense existential threat - a very serious challenge to its existence. That is why I want everyone to think about that.

Today, I called on all people who assembled in the streets, including many supporters of the government, to go home. The parliament chairwoman did the same. It is not the time of rallies and counter-rallies. Our country has already passed this stage. It is not the time of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations now. It is not the time of divided avenues - an attempt that was made today to erect barricades and draw dividing lines. We will not allow any dividing lines. We will no longer allow any unrest, as well as any clashes between various political groups, as, unfortunately, there were facts of violence.

We will also not allow open subversive activities by the special services of foreign countries, [to be more correct] one foreign country. We will no longer allow this and will curb this. The Georgian Foreign Ministry has declares persona non grata today several staffers of the Russian embassy who are directly involved in subversive and espionage activities and they should leave Georgia in the coming days. We have revoked our ambassador to Russia for consultations. I would like to repeat once more that this is not being done for the sake of theatrical gestures. We have undeniable materials that are being published now and will be published tomorrow too. Like the recent events in Estonia where they effectively tried to overthrow the Estonian government, these people played a major role here too. The events were planned there and were financed from there through oligarchs who are on friendly terms with them. If we do not take serious measures, things may take much deeper and much more dangerous shape. Our country - our Georgia - is for all Georgians and each of you. We cannot let Georgia be taken hostage of someone's very dirty and dishonest interests. We cannot let it be taken hostage of geopolitical games.

Our democracy needs to be protected through democratic methods. Our democracy needs actions by democratic but strong authorities in order to prevent everyone from turning Georgia back to darkness, civil wars that we experienced 10 or 15 years ago, unrest, and any kind of other hardships. We will act as a democratic government, and I need your support in all these actions. I need your support, and I trust your ability to be calm and reasonable, and to think rationally. I trust your wisdom and your love for you homeland, because we who represent the multiethnic people of Georgia and representatives of the people of all nationalities have particular love for our country. Representatives of all regions - Abkhazia, Samegrelo, Svaneti, Racha-Lechkhumi, Imereti, Ajaria, Guria, Kakheti, Samtskhe-Javakheti, and Kartli - and all provinces have particular love for Georgia. We should be united irrespective of the ethnic group or political views we represent.

Dialogue with opposition to continue

We call on everyone for dialogue. We have never left the path of dialogue. I would like everyone to know that no one will be able to replace the Georgian authorities through violence. The Georgian authorities are responsible for the protection of constitutional processes and transparency of democratic processes, in order to prevent political processes from being removed from normal, democratic, and constitutional rails through inspiring unrest. This is why we call on everyone for dialogue. We call on some part of the opposition. I mean most of them except just a few people who have been seen in footage receiving instructions from another country's representatives who are unfortunately not very friendly. I nevertheless have no doubt that most of them are patriots and honest, and that we will always find a common language for Georgia's well-being.

Public to remain calm

However, the main thing is that I would like to address not only political parties, but, what is most important, the Georgian public. We should not allow any reckless and most radical people from among our public, including those with political overtones, to lead Georgia to irreversible processes. I want to ask you to be consolidated but calm and I guarantee that we will be able to maintain order. However, in the long run, I would like to address everyone that we should have boundless trust that Georgia will be united. We should have boundless trust that Georgia will become even stronger. We should have boundless trust that we as a country will never be defeated by [Russia's] 11th army [like in 1921 when Bolshevik Russia occupied Georgia] no matter in what shape it comes here. No alien force will ever be able to make us turn back. We should have boundless trust that all of us together have a common and very bright future. This trust will help us win a victory.

God save our homeland - Georgia.

Press Office
of the President of Georgia

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