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Russian MP sparks violent protests in Georgia

Violent clashes between demonstrators and police in the Georgian capital Tbilisi early on June 21 have left more than 70 requiring hospital treatment.

Thousands had rallied through the night outside the country’s parliament in the centre of the capital, after a Russian MP, Sergei Gavrilov, was allowed to chair a session in parliament on June 20.

Mr Gavrilov was taking part in the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a body set up by the Greek parliament in 1993 to foster relationships between Christian Orthodox lawmakers. He addressed delegates in Russian, angering politicians and Georgians vehemently opposed to Moscow’s illegal occupation of parts of the country. Opposition MPs immediately called for protests in response to his decision to deliver a speech from the speaker’s seat.

As news of Mr Gavrilov’s appearance began to circulate, a crowd gathered outside parliament, and by late evening, about 10,000 people were massed outside the building, waving Georgian flags and later attempting to breach the lines of riot police and storm the building.

Georgia fought a war with Russia over its breakaway region of South Ossetia in 2008. South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, are supported by Russia both financially and militarily.

Mr Gavrilov has reportedly left Georgia.