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Georgians protest power outages
The Associated Press
TBILISI, Georgia (November 15, 2000 4:50 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - Upset over years of frequent electricity blackouts, about 1,000 residents of Georgia's capital protested Wednesday by blocking a main city thoroughfare.
In addition to Tbilisi, protesters also blocked streets in the town of Rustavi, 30 miles to the east.
Georgian authorities said earlier this month they would cut electricity in the capital to six hours per day because of a lack of funds for repairs and fuel for electricity stations -- but residents say they're sometimes not getting electricity at all.
The protest on downtown Tbilisi's Chavchavadze Avenue began at midnight Tuesday and broke up after about five hours, but resumed in the early afternoon. Police did not try to disperse the protesters.
President Eduard Shevardnadze said that in a week or 10 days "the situation will be better in both the capital and the provinces." He promised that there would be 13 to 15 hours of electricity daily in the capital.
Protesters demanded no less than 20 hours a day. Electricity blackouts across the former Soviet Union have caused frequent protests, including some that blocked railway lines and highways.
In Georgia, the blackouts have brought calls for Shevardnadze to connect the country to neighboring Russia's electricity grid. The move would signify some loss of face in Shevardnadze's attempts to steer his country away from Russia's shadow and influence.
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-- Rachel Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 15, 2000