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Georgian police push to break up protest outside parliament

June 20, 2019
Associated Press

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Riot police in the capital of the country of Georgia unleashed water cannon and fired rubber bullets early Friday to try to disperse demonstrators outside the parliament who had tried to storm the building.

Nearly 70 people — 39 police and 30 civilians — were treated in hospitals for injuries in the night of clashes, said David Sergeenko, an adviser to the prime minister.

Police earlier had fired tear gas on the crowd of thousands that was demanding the government's resignation, but the gas did not deter the demonstrators.

The crowd repeatedly surged to try to break into the building on the city's main avenue, but police turned back the attempts.

Some demonstrators were seen hoisting shields that apparently had been seized from riot police.

The unrest was sparked by the appearance Thursday of Russian legislator Sergei Gavrilov in the building as part of an assembly of legislators from Orthodox Christian countries.

Gavrilov has supported calls for independence for the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, over which Georgia lost control in a 2008 war with Russia. He is also a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a figure despised by many Georgians.

Georgia and Russia broke diplomatic relations after the war and although steps have been made to restore normal relations, animosity toward Russia is strong and many Georgians resent any sort of official visit by Russians.

The visit of the Russian delegation of the Orthodox assembly already had prompted complaints, but the anger turned into a street protest after Gavrilov sat in the chair of the Georgian parliament speaker during a session of the assembly.


Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.



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