WORLD Georgian parliament speaker steps down amid mass protests


Georgian parliament speaker steps down amid mass protests


01:37, June 22, 2019


Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze. (File photo: IC)

Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze resigned on Friday amid mass protests in the capital of Tbilisi, Secretary General of the ruling Georgia Dream party Kakha Kaladze said.

The decision of Kobakhidze to resign was another demonstration of the high standard of responsibility established by the Georgian Dream party, Kaladze told a news briefing broadcast by the Georgian First TV Channel.

The clashes between protesters and law enforcement officers began on Thursday during an ongoing rally at the Rustaveli Avenue in downtown Tbilisi in front of the parliament.

At least 240 people, including 80 policemen, were injured during the clashes, Georgia's Deputy Health Minister Zaza Bokhua told the First TV Channel.

"Two patients are undergoing surgeries. One patient's condition is grave. Currently, 102 people remain in different hospitals," Bokhua said.

A total of 305 participants in the rally were detained for various offenses, Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Bortsvadze said.

The riots began after a delegation of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, took part in the 26th session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) in Tbilisi on Thursday.

Sergei Gavrilov, a State Duma deputy, opened the session in the Georgian parliament building and addressed the participants from the parliament speaker's seat.

Outraged opposition lawmakers interrupted the IAO session, and thousands of protesters gathered in front of the parliament, demanding the resignation of Kobakhidze, together with the interior minister and the head of the State Security Service.

Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators, who attempted to break into the parliament building, while the Russian delegation was evacuated and flew back home.

"The assault on the parliament and police was led by destructive political forces once again taking advantage of our fellow citizens' honest emotions," Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said in a statement on Friday.

Bakhtadze urged the public to maintain peace, vowing that the Georgian authorities will protect the safety of every citizen and ensure public order.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a briefing on Friday that the events in Tbilisi were "a Russophobic provocation" and Russia was concerned about and condemned them.

Russia-Georgia relations have been tense for years over Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as a brief armed conflict in August 2008.

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