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Officials, Opposition Leaders Pay Tribute to Victims of April 9 Tragedy

Government officials, opposition politicians and religious leaders  commemorated today the tragedy of April 9, 1989, when Soviet special forces dispersed peaceful protesters on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi, killing 16 on the spot and fatally wounding 4 more, who have succumbed to their injuries in the hospital. One more citizen was shot and killed during the curfew.

Speaking at a wreath laying ceremony at the memorial site in front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi, PM Mamuka Bakhtadze said the tragic events of April 1989 “united the Georgian people in their fight for freedom.” “I bow my head to our heroes; Georgians will always stay faithful to the ideals that united us thirty years ago,” he stated.

Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, echoed PM Baktadze’s sentiments, saying the tragedy united the entire nation in its pursuit of freedom and independence. “The struggle is not over yet as we still have an unaccomplished goal of becoming a full-fledged member of European and Euro-Atlantic institutions,” added FM Zalkaliani.

Giga Bokeria, leader of the European Georgia party, who also visited the memorial site, stressed in his press remarks that this day marks “the rare occasion in our history when the entire Georgian society was united around our future, our country and our personal freedom.”

President Salome Zurabishvili visited the memorial as well, but left the venue without engaging with media.

The United Opposition, a coalition of twelve opposition parties led by the United National Movement, marked the April 9 tragedy at a memorial in the western Georgian city of Zugdidi.

Sandra Roelofs, the United Opposition’s mayoral candidate in Zugdidi, said: “we will never forget the heroes who were killed by the Kremlin’s punitive machine for wanting Georgia to be independent.” She also stressed April 9 is also “a day of victory” as the country secured independence two years after the tragedy.

April 9, 1989 is marked as the day of national tragedy, but April 9 is also the day of restoration of Georgia’s independence. The Supreme Council of Georgia under the leadership of Zviad Gamsakhurdia declared the restoration of country’s independence (based on the declaration of independence of 1918) in 1991, exactly two years after the Soviet crackdown. Since 1993, April 9 is commemorated in Georgia as the day of National Unity.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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