- - Sunday, May 27, 2012

TBILISI — Tens of thousands of Georgians rallied in the capital Sunday as the ex-Soviet state’s richest man launched his bid to oust President Mikheil Saakashvili’s governing party at elections later this year.

Supporters of billionaire tycoon-turned-opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream alliance packed into Tbilisi’s Freedom Square for the lavishly staged rally intended as a show of strength ahead of October’s polls.

“This struggle will end with our victory,” Mr. Ivanishvili said after receiving a hero’s welcome from the huge crowd that sprawled out into the capital’s main street, chanting “Bid-zi-na! Bid-zi-na!”

“Saakashvili is a coward who has no arguments except lies and violence,” he said, promising to win EU and NATO membership for the small Caucasus state and lift it out of poverty.

It was the biggest rally since 2009 by an opposition revitalized by the superrich businessman’s decision to challenge Mr. Saakashvili, although opinion polls suggest his alliance trails behind the governing party.


Police detain 40 as gays push for parade

MOSCOW — Gay activists tried to stage two demonstrations in Moscow on Sunday to demand the right to hold a gay pride parade in the Russian capital, but they were blocked first by Orthodox Christian opponents and then by police, who detained a total of about 40 people from both sides.

The gay activists first gathered outside the city council building, where a few scuffles occurred as their opponents tried to disrupt the demonstration, decrying homosexuality as a sin.

After police broke up that protest, another group tried to stage a second protest at city hall, but once again police moved in and detained participants, including prominent gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev.

The majority of those detained were gay activists, but some of the Christian demonstrators also were pushed into police buses. Police said about 40 people were detained in all.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains strong.

Activists have long petitioned the Moscow government for permission to stage such a parade, but they have always been denied. Former Mayor Yuri Luzhkov described gay parades as “satanic,” while current Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said he disapproves of gay gatherings because they could offend the religious beliefs of many Russians.


Party chairwoman failed to properly declare income

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