Georgia protests: Thousands storm parliament over Russian MP’s speech


Protesters have attempted to storm Georgia’s parliament during a mass rally against a speech inside the chamber by a Russian lawmaker.

Riot police stopped them from entering the building, reportedly using tear gas and rubber bullets.

Tensions flared up when Sergei Gavrilov addressed an assembly of MPs from Orthodox Christian countries from the seat of the speaker.

Russia and Georgia have fought over two breakaway Georgian regions.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia were occupied by Russia in 2008. 

Moscow recognises them as independent states and Russian troops have remained there since.

Thursday’s protests left 39 police officers and 30 protesters in hospital with injuries, according to an advisor to Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze quoted by the AFP news agency.

Protesters outside Georgia's parliament
Image captionPolicemen attempt to block protesters during a rally against the visit of the Russian delegation
People rally outside the parliament in Tbilisi
Image captionPeople rally outside the parliament in Tbilisi

What caused the protests?

Mr Gavrilov was taking part in the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a body set up by the Greek parliament in 1993 to foster relationships between Christian Orthodox lawmakers.

Opposition MPs in Georgia’s pro-Western parliament called for protests in response to his decision to deliver a speech from the speaker’s seat.

He addressed delegates in Russian, angering politicians and Georgians vehemently opposed to Moscow’s presence in the country.

Calling for speaker Irakli Kobakhidze and other officials to resign, about 10,000 protesters breached the police cordon in the capital, Tbilisi, AFP reported.

Some were carrying EU flags and placards reading “Russia is an occupier”.

Giga Bokeria, an opposition MP for the European Georgia party, told AFP the rally outside parliament was “a spontaneous protest by ordinary Georgians”.

An anti-government rally outside parliament in Tbilisi, Georgia
Image captionAn opposition MP described the rally as “a spontaneous protest by ordinary Georgians”

Inside parliament, opposition lawmakers blocked the presidium and demanded that the parliamentary speaker, interior minister and state security service chief all resign over the incident.

The session was suspended and Mr Gavrilov has reportedly left the country. 

“That was a slap in the face of recent Georgian history,” Elene Khoshtaria, an opposition member of parliament, said.


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