09TBILISI800, GEORGIA: PROTESTS TO CONTINUE BUT STRAINS ARE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI800 2009-04-27 12:40 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9773
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0800/01 1171240
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 271240Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1449
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000800 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/27/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PROTESTS TO CONTINUE BUT STRAINS ARE 
SHOWING 
 
Classified By: DCM KENT D. LOGSDON  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Modest numbers of protesters turned out 
both on Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26 with crowds 
numbering around 2-3000 and 500-1000 respectively.  "Cells" 
continued to block traffic in front of the Georgia Public 
Broadcaster (GPB) Building, Freedom Square, the Ministry of 
Internal Affairs (MOIA), the Chancellery (where the PM's 
office is located), and Rustaveli Avenue.  A concert was 
canceled on Sunday due to the unexpected death of former 
Georgian Ambassador to the United States and Switzerland (and 
Alasania supporter) Levan Mikeladze.  In a meeting with the 
diplomatic corps on April 25, Speaker of Parliament David 
Bakradze said the government continues to offer dialogue on a 
range of issues, but the opposition continues to rebuff 
offers.  Protests organizers will announce again on April 27 
another "action plan".  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  Despite modest crowds and increasing 
public irritation with the protests, the non-parliamentary 
opposition presses forward.  The makeup of recent crowds 
suggests a "rent-a-crowd" with a sizable percentage, if not 
the vast majority, of the protesters believed to be receiving 
payment to keep the protests ongoing.  The financial strains 
are showing with non-parliamentary opposition leaders calling 
for donations from the public.  Despite their public claims 
of confidence, offering free concerts and busing protesters 
in from the regions may be moves of desperation rather than 
signs of impending success.  End Comment. 
 
Protest Numbers Dwindle - Still No Sign of a Plan 
 
3.  (C)  Like a broken record, the non-parliamentary 
opposition promises a "new action plan" to be unveiled April 
27 although all signs indicate that they have no plan other 
than to give more speeches and call for more protests.  The 
MOIA put Saturday's numbers at roughly 2300 protesters which 
one Embassy observer described as a "rent-a-crowd".  Roughly 
500-1000 protesters with the same "rent-a-crowd" look showed 
up in front of Parliament on a beautiful sunny Sunday 
afternoon.  Freedom Square, the road in front of the GPB, the 
State Chancellery, and MOIA buildings remained blocked with 
only a handful of protesters (5-15) manning the "cells," 
though buildings can be accessed on foot.  Sunday's protest 
might have drawn a larger crowd because of a planned concert; 
however, the death of Alasania ally and former diplomat Levan 
Mikeladze led the organizers to cancel the event.  (Embassy 
Note:  Mikeladze died of an apparent heart attack or stroke 
at home on Sunday morning.  Most of the non-parliamentary 
opposition did not appear at the protest on Sunday, instead 
paying their respects to Mikeladze's family.  End Note.) 
 
4.  (C)  On the margins of a government-hosted reception 
celebrating Georgia's tenth anniversary as a member of the 
Council of Europe, Deputy Ombudsman Giorgi Chkheidze told the 
DCM that he worried that both sides were stuck in a dead-end 
game.  He thought that it was important at this stage for the 
Government to make a concession up front, and that offering a 
dialogue at this point was not enough.  Chkheidze said that 
the concession would have to come in an important area like 
judicial reform or law enforcement, but he did not have a 
concrete idea.  When asked whether the opposition would 
respond positively to a Government concession, Chkheidze said 
that he frankly did not know. 
 
Protests Proving to Be Expensive 
QProtests Proving to Be Expensive 
 
5.  (C)  Koba Davitashvili (Party of the People) informed 
protesters that the non-parliamentary opposition would put 
boxes out at the rallies and he publicized a bank account 
number for donations.  Estimates vary, but most put the cost 
of constructing the mock "cells" in the range of 
200,000-300,000 USD.  Reports of protesters receiving 35 USD 
plus lunch a day means that the non-parliamentary opposition 
is spending a substantial sum of money every day to continue 
the protests.  (Embassy Comment:  Assuming only 500 
protesters are being paid, the cost would be nearly 20,000 
USD a day not counting paying for flags, banners, sound 
systems, electricity, transportation from the regions etc. 
End Comment.)  It has been widely rumored though not 
confirmed that Nino Burjanadze has been footing a large 
portion of the costs of the protests from her personal wealth. 
 
6.  (C)  The French Ambassador told the DCM that he met with 
Kakha Kukava (Conservatives) on April 26 at Kukava's request. 
 Kukava asked the French Ambassador to arrange a meeting for 
opposition leaders (unclear which ones) to meet with EU 
Ambassadors, indicating that the opposition was ready to talk 
about finding a way out of the deadlock with the Government. 
The EU planned to meet April 27 to discuss whether or not to 
 
TBILISI 00000800  002 OF 002 
 
 
take up Kukava's offer.  In other EU news, EUSR Semneby and 
EU Ambas
sadors issued a joint statement on April 24 (emailed 
to EUR/CARC) commending all sides for the peaceful exercise 
of the right of free assembly and calling on all sides to 
abide by the law. In a separate statement, French Ambassador 
Fournier charged that blockage of roads and government 
buildings by protesters was not legal and lamented that the 
government was forced to hold official meetings in hotels. 
 
Bakradze Leaves the Door Open 
 
7.  (C)  In a diplomatic corps briefing held at the Sheraton 
due to access issues at Parliament, Speaker of Parliament 
David Bakradze said the government still was seeking a 
dialogue with the protest leaders.  Bakradze outlined three 
baskets of areas for discussion: internal political reform, 
economic, and security issues.  Bakradze said that he has 
approached a number of academics and other opinion makers and 
experts regarding participation in reform groups.  Bakradze 
said the GoG had proposed a "no-agenda" meeting with the 
non-parliamentary opposition through EUSR Peter Semneby in 
order to create the opportunity for a frank and open 
discussion.  Bakradze said the format would have allowed the 
non-parliamentary opposition to save face by claiming the 
discussion was to center around Saakashvili's resignation. 
He lamented the response to the meeting was to have relative 
moderate David Usupashvili (Republicans - Alliance for 
Georgia) read a terse statement rejecting any dialogue and 
denouncing the GoG.  Ambassadors at the briefing applauded 
the government's efforts in handling the protests and openly 
questioned whether Tbilisi should be held hostage to the 
demands of a radical few.  Bakradze said the GoG was not 
going to wait forever for the non-parliamentary opposition to 
agree to dialogue but, he noted, the door would remain open 
for them. 
LOGSDON

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