Protesters attempt to storm Georgia's parliament over Russia MP's visit

  21 June 2019    Read: 1216
 Protesters attempt to storm Georgia

Thousands of angry protesters have gathered and attempted to  storm Georgia'sparliament in the capital of Tbilisi, over a controversial visit by a Russian lawmaker Thursday.

According to Russian state news agency TASS, Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov Gavrilov opened a session of the assembly at the Georgian parliament building and infuriated Georgian opposition deputies by sitting in the chair of the parliamentary speaker. According to Reuters the lawmaker also addressed delegates in Russian, rather than the local language.

Representatives of the opposition rushed the podium in protest. Gavrilov told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that he was doused with water by protesting Georgian deputies.

"They broke into the hall, seized the rostrum and my seat," he said. "We had a break, they started looking for me, tearing up documents, pouring water on me ... showing portraits of Putin."

As protesters outside tried to enter the parliament, police used tear gas to disperse them, CNN witnessed. Some protesters appeared bloodied from skirmishes with law enforcement, while others had taken official shields and riot gear.

Georgia was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, and in recent years has struggled with tensions with Russia over Moscow's support for Georgian breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Gavrilov told RIA-Novosti that he believed Georgian protesters demanded his removal because of his alleged participation in the separatist conflict in Abkhazia in the early 1990s. A member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Gavrilov has said that he had never participated in any armed conflicts.

Tensions flared between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 over a Russian-backed separatist movement in the province of South Ossetia, when then-Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili sent troops to regain control over the self-proclaimed autonomous region. Russia responded by moving tanks and soldiers through South Ossetia and advancing farther into Georgian territory.

When the fighting ended, Russia's military pulled back only as far as South Ossetia, which it see as an independent state.

A statement issued by the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs called on protesters Thursday to "immediately stop the violations of law and violence, do not follow provocations, obey the police request and leave the territory of the parliament. Otherwise, police will take measures provided by law."

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