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Georgian premier blames ex-president Saakashvili for Tbilisi unrest

On June 20, police quelled an angry mob's attempt to storm the parliament

TBILISI, June 28. /TASS/. Georgia’s self-exiled ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili and his supporters are responsible for the June 20 mass disturbances outside the country’s parliament, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze has told reporters.

"Convicted Saakashvili and his aggressive group bear the responsibility for that [riots] as they tried to make use of the sincere protest of our citizens in their attack on our constitution. This is totally inadmissible. At the same time, each of us and the Georgian society agrees that the use of force was excessive in some cases," he told reporters.

On June 20, several thousand protesters gathered near the building of the national parliament in downtown Tbilisi, demanding the resignation of the interior minister and the parliament’s speaker, and tried to storm it. In response, police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.

The protests were sparked by an uproar over a Russian State Duma delegation’s participation in the 26th session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). On Thursday morning, IAO President Sergey Gavrilov opened the session in the Georgian parliament. Opposition lawmakers were outraged by the fact that Gavrilov, in line with the protocol, addressed the event’s participants from the parliament speaker’s seat. In protest, they did not allow the IAO session to continue and tried to storm the parliament.

According to Georgian media, 240 people suffered injuries and 305 protesters were detained, some of them were released the following day.

Bakhtadze said that 121 people, who were sentenced to a 12-day custody for taking part in the rallies, were released.

"We were able to identify the young people whom organizers lured into mass rioting, and, although it was obvious that they had violated the law, the prosecutors requested to change their measure of restraint," he said. "At present, all peaceful protesters who fell victim of this provocation and were formally identified as administrative offenders are staying at home."

The rallies resumed outside the parliament’s building on Thursday, although on a smaller scale. Later, several hundreds of protesters marched to the house of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder and chairman of the ruling Georgia Dream party, to demand sacking Foreign Minister Giorgi Gakharia.