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Russian club fires Georgian rugby player after showing solidarity to Tbilisi rallies

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, July 4
Russian rugby club Slava has suspended contacts with two Georgian players after they expressed support for rallies in Tbilisi during one of the games held in the country.

The information was released by the Georgian Rustavi 2 TV channel late on Tuesday and was confirmed by both players, Rezi Brodzeli and Saba Iluridze, on the next day.

The players say that the club leadership took their gesture, covering one of their eyes with hands, negatively and dismissed them.

They say that their gestures after scoring a try served the goal to show support to the people gathered in Tbilisi and did not have a political connotation.

“However, the club leadership took it as a protest to Russia,” Brodzeli told the Rugby TV.

People gathered in a rally the same evening to express protest for allowing Gavrilov, from the aggressor country, address the audience from the high parliamentary tribune in Georgia.

A group of protesters tried to storm the parliament which ended with dispersal, leaving 240 injured, with two youngsters losing eyesight.

That was why the demonstrators covered one of their eyes during the following rallies and demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia for the dispersal.

Russia banned direct flights to Georgia, strengthened control on Georgian exported products and “postponed the possibility” to annul visa regime with Georgia after their MPs were forced to leave the country due to the developments on June 20.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin says that the negative mood against Russia amongst the demonstrators “was because of the influence of destructive forces,” referring to the United National Movement opposition party.

The Georgian Dream ruling party says that a “justified, peaceful and fair” protest of people was transformed into violence due to the “provocative and destructive” actions by opposition members.

A member of the United National Movement Nika Melia has been charged with incitement to violence during the rally.

Two of the demonstrators' demands – the resignation of Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze and holding the proportional elections in 2020, have been met by the government.

The government refuses to meet the final demand of the protests – the resignation of Interior Minister Gakharia.

The rally organisers announced on Wednesday that the rallies change the format and they will become focused on discussions and communication, with large-scale events, like marches, to be held on previously announced dates.