One seemingly innocuous speaking engagement was all it took to shatter the delicate equilibrium that has prevailed in Georgia since its disastrous, 5-day war with Russia in 2008.
It involved an address by Russian MP Sergei Gavrilov to other lawmakers from Orthodox countries. The optics of Gavrilov, who is not only Russian but has also publically advocated for the independence of Georgia’s breakaway republics, occupying the speaker of the house’s seat proved too much for the opposition to bear. Around 10,000 protestors descended on the legislature, eventually storming the building and prompting a violent response by police. When the dust had finally settled, 103 were hospitalized and 300 arrested.
The incident serves to highlight both the limits of the government’s tentative reset with Russia, and the ever-present threat of resumed hostilities between Moscow and Tbilisi.