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Saturday 20 July 2019

Georgia police fire tear gas at protesters seeking to storm parliament

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

Opposition demonstrators run away as police fire a volley of tear gas (Zurab Tsertsvadze/AP)
Opposition demonstrators run away as police fire a volley of tear gas (Zurab Tsertsvadze/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

Riot police in the capital of Georgia have used water cannon and fired rubber bullets in a bid to disperse demonstrators who tried to storm the parliament building.

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

Police earlier fired tear gas on the crowd of thousands that was demanding the government’s resignation.

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A demonstrator stands in front of a police line at the Georgian parliament (Zurab Tsertsvadze/AP)

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 on Thursday of Russian legislator Sergei Gavrilov in the building as part of an assembly of legislators from Orthodox Christian countries.

Mr Gavrilov has supported 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, who is despised by many Georgians.

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Protesters help a wounded man after clashes with riot police (Zurab Tsertsvadze/AP)

Georgia and Russia broke diplomatic relations after the war and although steps have been made to restore normal relations, animosity towards 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 Mr Gavrilov sat in the chair of the Georgian parliament speaker during a session of the assembly.

PA Media

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