1 Million Georgians Rally Against Moscow

ReutersSaakashvili waving to a crowd protesting on Monday against Russia's military action in Georgia's separatist regions.
TBILISI, Georgia -- More than 1 million people across Georgia protested Russian military action and the Kremlin's backing for the country's two separatist regions.

Many waving the red-and-white Georgian flag, protesters linked arms in the capital, Tbilisi, in a human chain that snaked through the city under cloudy skies.

Flags flew from balconies and protesters chanted "Long Live Georgia!" and "Stop Russia!"

Countrywide, police said more than 1 million people took part in what authorities said was a show of unity after Russia last month crushed a Georgian bid to retake breakaway South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.

The figure, which could not be independently confirmed, would account for more than one-fifth of the country's 4.5 million population.

"Today we can say Georgia is not alone because the whole world is standing beside us," President Mikheil Saakashvili told the crowd on Tbilisi's Freedom Square.

Moscow poured tanks and troops across its southern border to repel the Georgian assault ordered by Saakashvili, and last week recognized South Ossetia and a second breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

"This brutal power decided that the revival of Russian imperialism would start in Georgia, but I would like to tell [Russia] that this revival will be buried for good in Georgia," Saakashvili said.

He said Monday's protest marked the largest gathering in Georgia since the country of split from the Soviet Union in 1991.

"It's a day of unity," said artist Natela Zarandia. "We want to show the entire world that Georgians are not afraid of anything, and I hope the world will hear our message."