Thousands in Soviet Georgian Capital Join Funeral Marches
Thousands of Georgians, many carrying black flags, joined funeral processions through the Soviet republic’s capital of Tbilisi on Saturday for the victims of clashes between troops and nationalist demonstrators in which 19 people were killed.
Meanwhile, at a meeting in Moscow on Saturday, a writer, Galina P. Kornilova, told a group of intellectuals that authorities had told hospitals to expect casualties before they broke up the pro-independence rally in Tiblisi on April 9. She said soldiers used an unidentified chemical in the bloody clash.
Kornilova said she was in Tbilisi for the week of protests and gathered information from witnesses. Foreign journalists are barred from visiting Tiblisi, and there was no independent confirmation of her account.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, dispatched to his native Georgia to investigate the deaths, suggested the overnight curfew imposed after the disturbances could be lifted by Monday if order was restored to the city.
The new Communist Party chief in the southern republic said efforts were needed to restore people’s faith in their leaders. He denied there was any enmity between Russians and Georgians.
A journalist from the news agency Gruzinform, speaking by telephone from Tbilisi, said authorities blocked traffic in the city to allow several corteges of about a thousand people each to make their way to cemeteries.
Soviet television news showed the area in front of the Georgian government headquarters, site of last Sunday’s clashes, covered in a vast blanket of flowers interspersed with lighted candles.