Protesters gather in Georgia over opposition leader's arrest

Protesters attend a rally following the detention of the United National Movement party leader Nika Melia, Tbilisi, Georgia, February 26, 2021.
Protesters attend a rally following the detention of the United National Movement party leader Nika Melia, Tbilisi, Georgia, February 26, 2021. Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Euronews with AP
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Protesters gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia over the arrest earlier in the week of opposition leader Nika Melia.


Anti-government protesters marched in Georgia's capital Tbilisi on Friday after the main opposition party leader was arrested earlier in the week.

Nika Melia, leader of the United National Movement, was arrested with the party headquarters stormed by police. Melia faces charges of inciting violence during protests in 2019.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned over the order for Melia's arrest, stating that it would lead to political escalation.

There has been a tense political situation in the country amid allegations of voter fraud in the fall parliamentary election. The opposition has demanded a rerun of the vote. They are also now demanding Melia's release.

Turmoil in the South Caucasus

The political turmoil in the South Caucasus is being watched closely by regional powers, particularly Russia, which continues to have very strong diplomatic and military ties in the region.

"We have to remember here that Russia sees the post-Soviet space as its sphere of exclusive influence, and it wants to try and counter-balance the growing influence of the West," says Tracey German, a reader in conflict and security at King's College London.

"It wants to ensure that Russia is recognised as the dominant power across this wide region. And it looks for states that are loyal to Moscow. I think that is potentially what will be concerning for the European Union," she told Euronews.

"It retains very considerable leverage, both in the diplomatic arena, but also economically and militarily. And I think it's in those areas, particularly diplomatically, that we'll be seeing increasing pressure on these states."

Yerevan also in focus

In neighbouring Armenia, anti-government protesters also took to the streets again on Friday in the capital Yerevan, calling on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to step down.

Anger has been simmering ever since Armenia's conflict with Azerbaijan in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh last November. The opposition movement gained momentum this week, when top military commanders also urged Pashinyan to resign.

Pashinyan accused the armed forces of plotting a coup, and he called a rally of 20,000 of his own supporters in the capital on Thursday. Pashinyan said he was ready to talk with the opposition, but he also threatened to arrest any opponents who "go beyond political statements."

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