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Ruling party says Russian Delegation’s Visit a ‘Mistake’, Putin stops Flights

Peaceful rally outside the Parliament of Georgia is resuming at 7pm on June 23, with several thousand of protesters demanding Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation, release of protesters detained during the June 20-21 clashes with the police, holding of the 2020 parliamentary elections through fully proportional system.

Speaker-designate lays out the official line

Archil Talakvadze, of the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party is billed to replace Parliament Speaker after Irakli Kobakhidze, who resigned in the wake of the protests. Talakvadze told Imedi TV yesterday that the Russian delegation’s visit to Georgia, that triggered wide public protest was “a mistake.”

Talakvadze noted that the Russian delegation left Georgia on June 20 and “the incident was practically resolved” immediately the very same day. He also argued the ruling party “took full political responsibility,” as the Parliament Speaker “made a decision to resign.”

Talking about the continuing rally in front of the Parlaiment, Talakvadze said “certain forces” took advantage of the situation and tried to use justified public protest and peaceful manifestation for their political objectives to “regain power” – hinting transparently at the United National Movement (UNM).

Talakvadze downplayed the protesters’ demand to move to proportional system in 2020, saying it had already been addressed by the new constitution and “does not require demonstrations”  – even though the constitution foresees the move to the proportional system starting in 2024.

He also Talakvadze also said that police actions against the protesters were “legitimate” and triggered by “irresponsible provocations of the opposition.”

GDDG Secretary General, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, echoed Talakvadze’s position that the Russian delegation’s visit was “a mistake” and that the Georgian authorities took already their share of responsibility.

In his yesterday’s Facebook video address, Kaladze also pinned the blame on “destructive opposition” for the developments on Rustaveli Avenue that left 240 protesters injured.

Russia’s response

Responding to forced departure of the Russian MPs from Tbilisi and the anti-Russian tenor of Tbilisi protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin convened an emergency session of the Security Council, and announced the temporary ban on flights to and from Georgia starting July 8, “to protect Russian citizens from violence or other illegal actions.” He also ordered Russian citizens’ evacuation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry echoed expressed concern “over the aggravation of the internal political situation in Georgia,” and argued that the members of the Russian delegation “were injured as a result of the actions of the radical Georgian opposition employing anti-Russian slogans” – even though there have been no confirmed reports of injuries.

“Therefore, the Foreign Ministry strongly recommends that Russian citizens refrain from travel to Georgia for their own personal safety,” the statement reads.

A group of opposition and civic activists gathered in front of the parliament of Georgia, condemning the Russian delegation’s presence at a session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in the parliament’s plenary chamber on June 20.

The protesters raised the responsibility of the ruling party over the developments, and demanded resignation of several state officials, inckuding Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze and Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia.

Tensions mounted around 10pm Tbilisi time on Thursday, as the ruling party did not respond to demands. Part of the protesters broke through the first cordon of the police, but were pushed back by the riot police.

Situation remained tense overnight, as police continued to pursue protesters that were dispersed through massive use of tear gas and rubber bullets at the Parliament building in Tbilisi.

The police, including the riot control units have engaged small pockets of protesters that attempted to come together in various locations in central Tbilisi. The last pockets were eliminated by 04:45 in the morning of 21 June.

For more follow our tag on Tbilisi protests

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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