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Friendly football match turns political

By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, July 9
An international friendly match between Dinamo Tbilisi and Dinamo Moscow, which took place at Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena on July 8 ended in a draw, but the match was followed by the protest of some Georgian fans. Dinamo Tbilisi supporters started their protests during the match, after Russian supporters displayed Russian flags in the arena.

Dinamo Tbilisi supporters explained that they were annoyed by the Russian “imperialistic” flags. “They exhibited imperialistic flags and they want to make us feel by this that Russia is an empire and that we are part of the empire. That’s why we demanded the removal of the flags, though we were refused and then we decided to protest peacefully,” one of the protesters said. After Russian supporters refused to remove the flags, several Georgians left the stands.

Activists of the “Free Zone” organization expressed their protest at the exit of the stadium and tried to block the road as well. They refused to move to the pavement as police officers asked them to. Apart from appearance of the Russian flags, activists were protesting the attendance of Russian MPs at the match.

Activists refused to obey police officers and as a result three individuals, Irakli Chkhirkvaia, Davit Gogokhia and Lasha Rukhaia were arrested outside Dinamo stadium. Activists of the organization “Free Zone” remain in preliminary detention. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the detainees are charged with administrative offences, hooliganism and are also accused of resisting arrest, which is are criminal offences according the Georgian legislation.

President Mikheil Saakashvili commented on the incident. Speaking about Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov, who attended the match at Dinamo Stadium, Saakashvili said that the “Russian State Duma MP voted for Georgia’s dismemberment, for Abkhazia and for Tskhinvali's independence.”

The president protested the fact that “the enemies” were let in the country. In his statements on Monday, President Saakashvili said that Gavrilov is actively linked with the Russian special services. The president said he welcomes Russian tourists in Georgia and all kinds of sport or cultural events, but he can never salute bringing enemies into the country.

Saakashvili also addressed the Ministry of Internal Affairs and called on them to immediately release the protesters detained by the police. The president says that the young individuals had all the rights to protest that night and police officers used excessive force against them.

“Law enforcement officials used excessive force and violated their constitutional right to hold a peaceful protest. This was a politically motivated activity by the police. I ask and order Gharibashvili to release these people. There are rules that the country must follow,” the President stated.

The court session of the three detainees took place on July 8th, where they declared that the charges are false and they never resisted the police officers, while the officers still acted in an aggressive manner. Witnesses questioned at the session declared the same and stated that the protesters were acting within the framework of the law and did not violate any orders. The court has not announced its final decision yet, as the session was suspended and postponed for the next day, July 9th.