Georgia imposes state of emergency

Troops flood the streets of Tbilisi as Russian diplomats are expelled.

    Hundreds of troops have been stationed around the Georgian capital [AFP]
    Davit Usupashvili, of the opposition Republic Party, said no new protests were planned.
     
    "We have told everybody to calm down," he said.
     
    Meetings banned
     
    In video

    Georgia cracks down on anti-government protests

    Army trucks and hundreds of soldiers blocked side roads leading into Tbilisi's main street on Thursday, allowing only a handful of people through onto the normally busy road.
     
    Schools were closed until next week, only state corporations were allowed to broadcast news and meetings were banned under the emergency measures which will last until November 22, subject to parliamentary approval.
     
    Armed police stormed the main opposition broadcaster on Wednesday and took it off air, forcing staff to the ground and holding guns to their heads.
     
    Human rights groups and the Georgian Orthodox church have described the president's actions as inexcusable.
     
    International criticism of the government's actions has also grown with the latest coming from Nato.
     
    "The imposition of emergency rule, and the closure of media outlets in Georgia ... are of particular concern and not in line with Euro-Atlantic values," said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato's Secretary General said in a statement.
     
    The United States, which is Saakashvili's main backer, has called for restraint.
     
    Diplomatic row
     
    Zurab Nogaideli, the prime minister, said the authorities had prevented a coup and Saakashvili said he had evidence that Russian intelligence had been organising the opposition.
     
    The Russian foreign ministry, which denies the charges, said it was expelling three Georgian diplomats in response to a similar earlier move by Tbilisi.
     
    Jonah Hull, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Moscow, said many people there believed that Saakashvili was blaming Russia to detract from his own unpopularity.
     
    The crackdown followed six days of protests in front of parliament - Georgia's worst political crisis since the Saakashvili was elected nearly four years ago.
     
    The protesters initially called for changes in the dates of planned elections and in the electoral system, but later made Saakashvili's resignation their central demand.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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