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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Saakashvili Blames Russia for Unrest

APGeorgian opposition supporters sleeping Tuesday in a tent set up in front of Saakashvili's residence in Tbilisi.
TBILISI -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Tuesday that Georgia would not succumb to Russian efforts to foment unrest, as opponents planned a sixth day of protests against his rule and demands for his resignation.

Saakashvili again appeared to suggest that Russian money was behind the street protests calling for him to resign over his record on democracy and last year's disastrous war with Russia.

Opposition leaders say the allegations are part of a smear campaign against them and reflect the government's indifference to the protesters' grievances.

Saakashvili has accused Russia of building up its forces in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia over the last few weeks.

"All that was aimed at domestic unrest and, as the events of these past days show us, no matter how much money is spent and what they might do, Georgia is a stable country," he said during a visit to a health clinic. "It's impossible to cause any serious disturbances here."

Dozens of protesters spent the night in tents outside the president's office in the capital Tbilisi and planned a sixth day of protests later in the day.

Up to 20,000 people joined the rally on Monday, again blocking the capital's central avenue before marching on Saakashvili's office chanting for him to resign.

Turnout has dropped since the first day, when some 60,000 demonstrated in front of the parliament building. But opposition leaders deny that the campaign is running out of steam.

Critics accuse Saakashvili, seen by some Georgians as brash and impulsive, of monopolizing power since becoming president after the 2003 "Rose Revolution." They say he has an authoritarian streak that has stifled the judiciary and media.

The five-day war with Russia in August last year, when Moscow crushed a Georgian assault on South Ossetia, emboldened critics who say the 41-year-old leader has made too many mistakes to remain in power until 2013.

But analysts say Saakashvili's ruling United National Movement retains wide support and his position appears strong, despite the defection of some top allies and several cabinet reshuffles.

The opposition is perceived as weak and lacking a strong leader to challenge him.