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Georgia Marks First Anniversary of Anti-Kremlin Protest


An activist wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus holds the Georgian flag during a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 20, 2020.

Thousands of people gathered in the center of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, on Saturday to protest against the government and Russia one year after the brutal dispersal of an anti-Kremlin demonstration.

The protest was the first major gathering in the country since the coronavirus pandemic and organizers placed markers with the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the ground to encourage social distancing.

Most participants wore protective masks and organizers distributed sanitizers.

The protest movement erupted last June when a visiting Russian lawmaker was allowed to address the Georgian parliament from the speaker's chair, in Russian, touching a nerve in a country that fought a war with Russia 12 years ago.

The rally outside parliament a year ago descended into violent clashes with police who used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters. More than 240 people were injured, including more than 30 journalists and 80 policemen. Two protesters, including 18-year-old Mako Gomuri, lost eyesight.

"Those who shot me last year are still not punished and today I have even more questions than one year ago," said Gomuri, addressing the rally.

Protesters blew horns and held up placards reading "Together against the occupation!" -- a reference to Russia's occupation of Georgia's two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

At the end of the protest demonstrators waved posters reading "We will meet at the election," referring to a parliamentary vote later this year.

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