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Saakashvili Says Georgia Will Survive Putin Era

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) with U.S. special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke at Krtsanisi National Military Training Center in late February.
KOJORI, Georgia -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has said his country survived the rule of despotic Persian shahs and can also survive the current Russian government, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

Saakashvili made the statement at a ceremony on February 25 marking the 89th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Georgia.

"Georgia will never kneel down before its enemies," he said.

The Georgian leader added that "we have endured [16th-century Persian ruler] Shah Abbas and we will endure [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin. A small group of traitors [in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia] can never overshadow Georgia."

Georgian-Russian relations hit a new low in August 2008 after a five-day war in South Ossetia.

The ceremony was held in Kojori, a town outside of Tbilisi that was the scene of fierce fighting between Georgian forces and the USSR's Red Army in 1921 and is the home to the army's elite Kojori Brigade. Saakashvili spoke at a memorial for soldiers killed in the battle at Kojori.

Earlier that day, Saakashvili met in Tbilisi with former Soviet dissidents Valerya Novodvorskaya and Vladimir Bukovsky.

"I would like to express great respect toward you and add that I grew up listening to you on Radio Liberty broadcasts," he said he told them. "Generations grew up listening to [those broadcasts] not only in Georgia, but in Russia and the entire Soviet Union."