Demonstrations in Tbilisi turn into open confrontation between protesters and police

Demonstrations in Tbilisi have turned into an open confrontation between protesters and Georgian riot police, with shots heard at the scene, Pirveli TV channel reported on Friday.

According to Pirveli, the police is using tear gas against protesters. Demonstrators do not plan to give up, they use various objects for defense, including banners and water bottles. Reports said that several people sustained injuries.

Several thousand demonstrators, together with opposition representatives, gathered in Tbilisi downtown on Thursday and tried to storm the parliament building. People demand the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Parliament Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze. Local media reported that the police used tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators. According to the Georgian Health Ministry, 52 people were injured in the protests, including 38 police officers.

Demonstrations followed the participation of Russian State Duma member Sergey Gavrilov and other Russian delegates in the 26th session of the General Assembly of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) in Tbilisi. On Thursday morning, Gavrilov opened the session as the IAO president. Opposition Georgian parliament members condemned Gavrilov for addressing the delegates while sitting down in a chair of the parliament chairperson. Opposition representatives then picketed the rostrum and the chair of the parliament speaker and did not allow the session to continue.

A decision was made later to finish the session, and for the Russian delegation to leave. Representatives of the ruling party “Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia” said that they did not know that Gavrilov would open the session and think that the protocol was broken.