Georgia’s parliament speaker resigns after unrest

Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze resigned on Friday, the country’s ruling party confirmed.

The decision followed a night of violent protest in the capital Tbilisi following a contentious parliamentary address by a Russian lawmaker.

“Speaker Kobakhidze’s decision to step down is proof of the high standards of accountability set by our party and not a concession to irresponsible opposition parties’ demands,” the Georgian Dream party’s General Secretary Khakha Kaladze told a news conference.

Hundreds injured in crackdown

State media reported that more than 240 people were injured on Thursday night after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets during the largest rally in years outside the parliament building. More than 100 are still hospitalized.

Thousands had gathered to voice outrage over the visit of the Russian delegation, more than a decade after the two nations fought a war in which Georgia effectively lost two large chunks of its territory, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Moscow has recognized both as independent states and stationed permanent military bases in each, prompting deep anti-Russian sentiment.

Russian lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov addressed an inter-parliamentary forum of lawmakers in his native Russian from the Georgian parliamentary speaker’s seat. The sitting was cut short as a result of the protests.

President calls for peace

“Russia is our enemy and occupant,” Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said amid the protests, calling for the restoration of peace and suggesting that such destabilization actually benefits Russia.

“The breakdown of our country and society, the internal confrontation does not help anyone else but Russia. This is its most well-known weapon,” she said in a statement on Facebook.

But Georgian opposition leaders said they would hold mass protests until parliament was dissolved.

Moscow, meanwhile, condemned the protest as a “Russophobic provocation,” according to comments carried by Russian state news agency TASS.

The use of force has sparked an international outcry with Human Rights Watch accusing Georgian police of failing to protect the human rights of “thousands of non-violent protesters.”

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