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Georgian Minibus Drivers Strike In Capital

Striking "marshrutka" drivers gathered in front of their vehicles in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, to protest on February 25.
TBILISI -- Thousands of commuters in Tbilisi were left stranded this morning after the drivers of hundreds of minibus taxis ("marshrutkas") went on strike, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

The drivers are protesting the terms from the new owners of the city's five minibus routes. They complain that the companies that won the tenders to operate those routes plan to increase the daily fee that drivers must pay them. Due to that increase, they have ordered minibus drivers to raise their fares for passengers by 20 tetris ($0.11), from the current 50 tetris to 70 tetris.

Tina Khidasheli of the opposition Republican Party told RFE/RL on February 24 that the four companies that won the tenders were registered at the same time, by the same notary, and all share the same business address.

Some opposition politicians have suggested that the four companies are part of a business group owned by Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava.

Caucasus Press quoted city council member Koki Ionatamishvili as saying the tender was "totally transparent."

Read more in Georgian here