The Latest: Putin suspends flying Russians to Georgia
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — The Latest on protests in the Georgian capital (all times local):
President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian airlines to suspend the transportation of Russian citizens to Georgia, saying the move is necessary to protect national security.
The decree on the suspension, published Friday on the Kremlin’s website, said the ban would begin July 8 and would be “temporary.” The reason behind the delayed implementation was not clear and the decree did not state what terms would need to be met for flights to resume.
The decree also ordered officials to take measures to ensure the return of Russians who are temporarily in Georgia.
The move came in the wake of a violent protest in the Georgian capital sparked by anger over the presence of a Russian delegation at an event in the Georgian parliament. Another, more orderly protest gathered thousands of people on Friday evening.
The speaker of Georgia’s parliament has resigned in the aftermath of violent clashes sparked by the appearance of a Russian lawmaker in parliament.
Kakha Kaladze, one of the leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream party, told reporters on Friday that Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze has handed in his resignation.
More than 200 people were injured after riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas and unleashed water cannons on thousands of protesters outside the parliament building. The rally, the largest in years, was triggered by the parliament appearance of a Russian lawmaker who was invited to a conference. The resignation of the parliamentary speaker was one of the protesters’ demands.
Relations between Russia and Georgia have been strained since the two former Soviet republics fought a brief war in 2008 and Russia threw its weight behind separatists in two regions of Georgia.
Georgia’s president has cut short a foreign visit to return to the capital Tbilisi after dozens of people were injured in clashes between protesters and police.
Salome Zurabishvili, who took office as Georgia’s first female president in December, said in televised remarks in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday that she is returning to Tbilisi to handle the crisis.
Nearly 70 people were treated in hospitals for injuries in the night of clashes on Thursday after riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas and unleashed water cannons on protesters outside Georgia’s parliament building.
The unrest was sparked by the appearance of Russian lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov, a Communist Party member, in the building as part of an assembly of legislators from Orthodox Christian countries.