Georgian president Salome Zurabishvili has to cut short her visit to Minsk. The politician will leave Belarus after she meets with Alyaksandr Lukashenka, RIA Novosti reports with reference to a source familiar with the situation.
Zurabishvili arrived in Minsk on June, 20. She was expected to be among other VIP guests attending the opening ceremony of the 2nd European Games.
“The president of Georgia is going to wind up the visit before time. However, Friday’s meeting with president Lukashenka will take place, but ahead of schedule,” the source said.
A day earlier, the protests broke out after Russian MP Sergei Gavrilov addressed the Inter-Parliamentary Orthodoxy Assembly which is being held in Tbilisi, BBC reports. The fact that he was sitting in the chair of the Georgian parliament speaker and speaking Russian caused public outcry in the country. In the context of the war that burst out in August 2008, many locals consider Russia an aggressor and invader and take a critical look at its efforts to have any influence in Georgia.
About 10,000 protesters came to the parliament building, demanding the resignation of its chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and head of the State Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri. Some of them were carrying EU flags and posters ‘Russia Is Invader’.
The police thwarted their attempt to force their way into the parliament and dispersed the best part of the protesters on Rustaveli Avenue by Friday morning. They used riot control weapons, i.e. tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. In turn, the participants of the rally were reported to be throwing bottles at the policemen and attacking them.
According to the updated data by Georgia’s Health Ministry, 240 persons got hurt, including 80 police officers and several journalists. Most of the victims reportedly have eye injuries. The opposition claims that over a hundred participants in the protests are injured.
Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili urged security forces to disobey orders and take the side of the protesters.
The Georgian Interior Ministry has given account of the police’s resorting to special means and using force stating that the protests ‘moved beyond the limits of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and turned into violence’.