UPDATED: Unrest in Georgia: Hundreds Injured Following Assembly on Orthodoxy
21 June, 2019
Georgians protest after Russian MP sat in the chair of the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia on June 20, 2019 JAMnews

Georgia is a pious nation – around 90% of its citizens deem themselves Orthodox Christians. No wonder this year’s Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy took place in its capital Tbilisi. But when Russia’s representative took Parliament Speaker’s seat in his absence, things turned nasty.

The events took place in the Georgian Parliament on June 20. According to JAMnews, the parliamentary opposition – National Movement and European Georgia – gave all Russian representatives half an hour to vacate the hall. Soon, the ruling party – Georgian Dream – followed suit and its leader Bidzina Ivanishvili called the events a “protocol error” and promised an “adequate reaction”.

But the opposition interfered and did not allow the bold Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov, who tried to deliver the speech about “brotherly love” from the high seat, to return to the Parliament hall. A confrontation started which resulted in water being splashed in the direction of the Russian delegation. After which the session in the Parliament was brought to an end.

Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze who was visiting Azerbaijan at the time of the events was branded a “traitor” by the opposition and had to cancel his trip. According to 2020News, Kobakhidze also resigned.

Soon after, thousands of people took to the streets of Tbilisi to protest Russia’s actions. In the evening of June 20, they managed to break through into the Parliament building, only to be met by police with batons and shields.

JAMnews also reports law enforcement using tear gas and rubber bullets which led to dozens of protesters being hospitalized. Demonstrators themselves reportedly were not bearing any arms.

People demand the resignation of the Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, head of Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri, Speaker Kobakhidze, and call for early elections. Opposition leaders who joined the protest call the above ex-PM “Ivanishvili’s puppets”, who himself is allegedly linked to the Kremlin.

According to Georgian RFE/RL, as of early June 21, 240 people have been injured, which includes law enforcers, protesters, and journalists. Special Forces returned to the Parliament after dispersing the crowd using water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Two people had their eyes removed because of grave injuries, one due to rubber bullet shot.

A new rally was announced by the leader of the opposition party New Georgia Giorgi Vashadze for 7 p.m. on June 21.