Anti-government Protesters took to the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia for the 3rd day in a row on June 22nd. The protests were largely peaceful, in comparison to the previous day.
The parliament speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze, resigned, meeting one of the protesters’ demands.
There were some non-violent “clashes.” Protesters refused to allow opposition members to protest with them. After a number of oppositionists were not allowed to protest, they began shouting various slogans.
Protest leaders said the rallies would continue until their wider demands were met, including a call for the interior minister to step down, the release of those arrested on the first night of protests, and the punishing of law enforcement officials who used violence against the crowd, as well as early parliamentary elections.
At 1 AM local time on June 23rd, the protest in Tbilisi has mostly ended with a march to the office of the ruling party “Georgian Dream.”
Since the start of protests on June 20, more than 240 have been injured so far and more than 300 have been arrested.
Georgian nationalists attacked a Russian TV crew from the channel “Russia 24” in Tbilisi on June 22nd. Both the correspondent of the television channel Stanislav Bernwald and the operator were attacked by nationalists.
According to the journalists themselves, they were recording an interview with the owner of a local travel agency, in the presence of her husband (she is Ukrainian, he is Georgian by nationality). At that moment two young people approached them. They shouted nationalist slogans and tried to beat the film crew.
A video was also posted of the incident:
The Russian Interests Section in Georgia at the Embassy of Switzerland reports that journalists from the crew of the Russia 24 TV channel, who were attacked in Tbilisi, did not seek help from them.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Russia is waiting for a response to this attack from relevant international organizations and NGOs, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and also demands that Georgia ensure the safety of Russian journalists and Russian citizens.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said that a criminal investigation had been opened into the case, RIA reported.
Regarding the matter, Frants Klintsevich, a member of the Russian Security Council, said that the investigation meant that Georgia was understanding what a complete break in communication with Russia would ensue.
He added that the anti-Russian speeches of the radicals could not come as a surprise to the authorities.
“Surprise for the authorities, apparently, was the reaction of Russia to these speeches – at the same time it’s strange if someone hoped that we would “swallow” these insults and Russian tourists would continue visiting Georgia as before,” Klintsevich said.
The former president of Georgia and the ex-governor of the Odessa region, Mikhail Saakashvili, on the TV channel 112 Ukraine accused Russia of “impudence” that has reached an extreme degree.
“You will forgive me; you know what is happening in Georgia now. There, due to the fact that the Russians in general became impudent until the end, they arranged the situation: they brought an occupier who sat at the speaker’s seat at the Georgian parliament,” the politician said.
In response to the protests and threats to Russian citizens, since both the government and opposition claim that Russia is behind them, on June 21st, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree, imposing a temporary ban on passenger flights with Georgia from July 8th, the Kremlin press office reported.
The decree also ordered parliament to provide for the return of Russian citizens currently in Georgia and recommended tour agencies not to send Russian clients to Georgia.
According to the Russian Transport Ministry Flights of Georgian airlines to Russia will be suspended from July 8th.
“The reason for the suspension of flights is the need to ensure a sufficient level of aviation security, as well as overdue debts for air navigation activities before State ATM Corporation,” the Ministry said.
“The suspension of flights will continue until companies Georgian Airways and MyWay Airlines present programs of aviation safety to the Russian side, their audit and approval by the Russian side, and until the Georgian side fully repays the air navigation service debt,” the report said.
In response, a group of Georgian activists tried to retaliate by calling on their compatriots to cancel their tours abroad and instead go on vacation in the country. The initiator of this campaign was the chairman of the Association of Law Firms Zviad Kordzadze.
“My idea isn’t aimed at creating an economic miracle. This is a response to the embargo … the initiative calls on citizens who were planning to spend holidays abroad, to allocate one week and rest inside the country, donate a week to our tourism and spend this money in Georgia. I don’t know what economic effect the measure might have, but sometimes supporting their country is more important than the economic effect,” he said.
In conclusion, a harsher rhetoric came from Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov who warned that “from Grozny to Tbilisi there are only 200 kilometers.”
“I want to remind you that there are only two hundred kilometers from Grozny to Tbilisi. In Russia, according to unofficial data, there are almost a million Georgians. Our peoples are bound by centuries-old bonds of friendship and unity,” he wrote in a telegram.
Kadyrov suggested that beaches, Georgian restaurants, hotels and cafes would become empty because of the anti-Russian radicals.
“In 2018, the citizens of Russia left in Georgia three and a half billion dollars,” he recalled.
According to Kadyrov, Russians and Georgians have “thousands of reasons to live in peace and harmony and not a single reason to look at each other with hatred.”
According to him, the anti-Russian politicians were fueled by the Western establishment.
“Madam President Salome Zurabishvili is deeply mistaken. It is Russia that is interested in peace, unity and harmony reigning in Georgia,” he concluded.
And it is indeed quite obvious, as both the current Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili and the former president Mikheil Saakashvili are both heavily biased towards the West and against Russia. The opposition is also not pro-Russian.
The protesters, even at a layman’s glance are obviously not protesting against Russia, they’re attempting to seize power from the government, but not give it to the popular opposition. Nonetheless, the both sides are actiely exploiting anti-Russian rhetorics in their actions.
Another interesting factor is that the entire political unrest in Georgia started during an assembly of MPs from Orthodox Christian countries. Over the past few years, canonical Orthodox Christianity in post-Soviet states as well as in southeastern Europe have become a target of multiple smear campaigns. Foreign actors are supporting various non-canonical entities and sectarian-style believes in the framework of the wider campaign against traditional religions that oppose the establishment of consumerist neoliberal world order.