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Georgia

Yearbook 2019

Georgia. In March, the Georgian military held a twelve-day drill along with NATO troops. NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg was present, assuring that the promise of future NATO membership for Georgia remains firm. Stoltenberg dismissed the Russian Federation's threat of conflict over Georgia becoming a NATO member.

2019 Georgia

Former Georgian President Micheil Saakashvili regained his Ukrainian citizenship in May and returned to Ukraine. Saakashvili is sentenced to prison for abuse of power in Georgia, who wants to extradite him. The party he founded, the National Movement, is the leading opposition party.

Thousands of protesters tried to storm Parliament in Tbilisi in June, after a politician from the Russian Federation was allowed to speak from the Speaker's podium at an international parliamentary forum for Orthodox countries. Opposition members demanded that Russian visitors leave Parliament and accused the ruling party of Georgian dream of inviting "Russian occupiers". About 10,000 protesters gathered outside the building in an anti-Russian protest, which became violent and met with tear gas and rubber bullets from the police. Over 200 protesters and police were injured, and several hundred people were arrested. As a result of the protests, the President of Parliament resigned. Moscow accused Georgia of Russophobic hysteria and stopped Russian flights to Tbilisi, which hit hard on the tourism industry. Check Digopaul.com for map of Georgia.

The Russian Federation introduced tougher control of wine imports from Georgia and threatened with severe consequences if protests continued. Georgia and the Russian Federation have not had diplomatic relations since the 2008 war, when Georgia lost control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia where the Russian Federation now has troops.

The anti-Russian protests continued and turned against the oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, the country's strong man and party leader of the Georgian dream. It was required that he and the government resign and that new elections be held.

Ivanishvili responded with the promise of a proportional electoral system, which was also required in the protests. The protesters continued with demands for new elections and the departure of the interior minister after the crackdown by the police on them. They were met by Prorian protesters who also turned to Tbilisi's first Pride manifestation, some 25 LGBT activists with rainbow flags and placards. The activists had been threatened and canceled a planned march. The Orthodox Church is leading the strong opposition to LGBT activism in Georgia.

Former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili was arrested in July accused of rioting in violence in connection with the attempts to storm Parliament. According to prosecutors, the mass protests were part of a coup attempt.

The popular TV channel Rustavi-2 returned after its court decision to its former owner, who was accused of wanting to turn the leading opposition channel into a government spokesman. Leading journalists were dismissed, and others resigned.

A report from Human Rights Watch in August sentenced the working environment in Georgia's mines. The deaths in connection with mining work have increased sharply since the working environment laws were relaxed in 2006.

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze resigned in September with the statement that he fulfilled his mission. Assessors said he no longer had the support of the Georgian dream leader Ivanishvili.

Instead, the party nominated controversial Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia as new head of government. The proposal was said to come from Ivanishvili. The opposition described it as shameful, and protesters gathered outside Parliament. The national movement, founded by Saakashvili, described Gakharia as Moscow's man, accusing him and Ivanishvili of returning Georgia to the Russian Federation's sphere of power.

Parliament unanimously approved Gakharia as new prime minister after the opposition boycotted the vote. Gakharia rejected his being Moscow's man and said he wanted to strengthen Georgia's relations with the EU and NATO.

Gakharia appointed former Prime Minister Ivanichvili's former bodyguard and former head of security services, Vakhtang Gomelauri, to new Interior Minister. Thousands of protesters gathered again in Tbilisi in protest against Gakharia, the government and Georgian dream. They blocked traffic on the city's main avenue with placards and slogans against party leader Ivanishvili, who was accused of oligarchy night.

The influential Orthodox Church was shaken by a series of scandals during the year. One priest was convicted of planning to poison a church leader, another priest accused of TV church leadership for pedophilia, and a bishop claimed that Prime Minister Gakharia planned to kill the powerful patriarch of the church. Gakharia described the charges as idiotic. Over 80% of the population belongs to the Orthodox Church.

The church called for protests when the Swedish director Levan Akin's film "And Then We Danced" premiered in Tbilisi in October. The protests became violent, several people were injured and several were arrested by police. The film is about forbidden love in a homophobic society.

The proposal for a proportional electoral system was voted down in Parliament in October. It triggered protests, where some 20,000 people demanded the government's resignation and re-election.

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