AP NEWS

Georgia: Protests held by parliament for 4th straight day

June 23, 2019
1 of 6
Protesters wear flags during a protest opposition demonstrators gather in front of the Georgian Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. The protesters consider Georgia's current government to be overly cooperative with Russia. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Thousands of protesters convened for a fourth straight day outside the Georgian parliament building, calling Sunday for the resignation of the interior minister and for changes in the election code.

The anti-government protests that started Thursday also focus on Russian control of two Georgian separatist territories.

The first protest was sparked by the presence of a Russian delegation in parliament. It erupted violently as demonstrators tried to storm the building and police fired rubber bullets and water cannons. More than 240 people were injured.

Demonstrators want the interior minister to resign over the forceful police response and vow to continue protesting.

“The only hope for the government is that people will get tired of the protest,” activist Salome Ugulava said Sunday, adding: “These people are not going to get tired.”

Organizers said they would try to increase pressure on the government Monday with a vehicle convoy to the Interior Ministry headquarters.

The demonstrations underline the strong animosity toward Russia that persists in Georgia even as relations with Moscow have slowly improved since the countries fought a short war in 2008.

Georgia lost control of two separatist territories in the conflict; the regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, are now effectively Russian vassal states.

Since the protests broke out, Russia announced a ban on passenger flights between the two countries starting July 8. The move is reminiscent of an air traffic embargo that Russia ordered in 2006 as tensions between the countries grew.

Some Georgian movie theater operators have reportedly stopped showing Russian-language films since the demonstrations started.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.