TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Thousands of protesters are trying to storm the parliament building in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and are calling for the government’s resignation.
Police turned back an attempt by the crowd to storm the building Thursday evening, then pushed back another surge about two hours later. Some demonstrators were seen hoisting shields that apparently had been seized from riot police.
The unrest was sparked by the appearance Thursday of Russian legislator Sergei Gavrilov in the building as part of an assembly of legislators from Orthodox Christian countries.
Gavrilov has supported support for independence for the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, over which Georgia lost control in a 2008 war with Russia. He is also a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a figure despised by many Georgians.
Georgia and Russia broke diplomatic relations after the war and although steps have been made to restore normal relations, animosity toward Russia is strong and many Georgians resent any sort of official visit by Russians.
The visit of the Russian delegation of the Orthodox assembly already had prompted complaints, but the anger turned into a street protest after Gavrilov sat in the chair of the Georgian parliament speaker during a session of the assembly.