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Human Chain Draws 15,000 Protesters

4 pm local time (noon GMT)

Today's rally was truly impressive. An estimated 15,000 people took part in forming the human chain, which was around 15 kilometers long. People had "Stop Russia" shirts and banners, Georgian flags, and chanted, "Long live Georgia." The mood was elevated -- Poti residents knew they were part of a truly large-scale rally, spanning cities and towns all over the country, and that brought a tremendous feeling of solidarity. There were priests among the protesters, and some prayers by participants; others sang the Georgian national anthem or folk songs. Ethnic Ossetians, Russians, and Armenians also took part in the rally, all to condemn the Russian aggression.

The chain extended all the way to the Seventh Kilometer, where one of the Russian checkpoints is located. The Russian forces were still there, of course, with their armored vehicles and heavy machinery. The soldiers never behaved aggressively toward the protesters: Some of them even approached the human chain, taking photos or filming with video cameras; other troops were content to bathe in the Rioni River as the rally proceeded. But overall, as I said, no one acted aggressively in any way.