Georgians protest against Russia-Abkhazia agreement

media captionKatie Dahlstrom reports: ''Since Russia's annexation of Crimea... concerns have grown in Georgia''

Tens of thousands of Georgians have rallied in the capital Tbilisi against a planned agreement between Russia and Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region.

The deal would create joint Russian and Abkhazian military forces.

Saturday's protest was organised by Georgia's main opposition party, the United National Movement.

Abkhazia declared independence in 1999 following a separatist war. In 2008, Russia formally recognised the province's autonomy.

Demonstrators, who believe Russia is taking steps to annex Abkhazia, carried Georgian and EU flags and chanted "stop Russia" and "stop Putin".

Others waved Ukraine flags, a reminder of Russia's decision to takeover Crimea and support separatist rebels in Ukraine's east.

'Trailing the bear'

image copyrightReuters
image captionProtesters fear that Russia wants to annexe Abkhazia as it did Crimea

"We have to raise our voice by saying that today, together with Ukraine, Russia is annexing Abkhazia and South Ossetia," said Georgian MP David Bakradze.

"And our international partners, the whole world has to defend international law here in Georgia, not only in Ukraine."

The United National Movement, led by former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, has been in opposition since 2012.

On Saturday Mr Saakashvili said the Georgian government was "bowing its head and trailing the [Russian] bear".

"We should show the government that our nation is united, even when it faces a big threat, and when it's about our freedom, future and independence," he told the crowd via video link from Ukraine's capital Kiev.

On Friday Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said he was aware of the threat posed by Russia and Abkhazia's agreement.

Russia recognised Abkhazia's independence after a five-day war with Georgia in 2008 when it helped the separatist region of South Ossetia breakaway from Georgia.

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