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Opposition Protests In Georgia's Breakaway Abkhazia Turn Violent

Opposition protesters gather in Sukhumi on December 21.
Opposition protesters gather in Sukhumi on December 21.

Opposition protesters in the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, have attempted to force their way through a security perimeter of buses and other obstacles surrounding the de facto parliament of the breakaway Georgian region.

Protesters threw fireworks at police, who responded with smoke grenades, local media reported on December 21.

There were no immediate reports of arrests or injuries, although reports on social media showed protesters attempting to overturn some of the buses.

Earlier, protesters outside the city's main drama theater met with Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania.

But the opposition protesters were not satisfied with the discussions, and they marched to the parliament building.

"We told him about the views of the protesters and asked to hear the president's views on the matters raised," said Aslan Bartsits, head of the opposition Forum of Popular Unity of Abkhazia.

"He answered that he heard us and that he'd expressed his views in his speech on [December 20] and that there was no need for protests."

In his speech, Bzhania condemned "all those trying to carry out illegal and unconstitutional acts."

The same day, de facto Interior Minister Valter Butba called on citizens not to participate in illegal protests or hamper the functioning of the government.

The opposition accuses the de facto authorities of failing to cope effectively with the coronavirus pandemic, failing to manage the energy network properly, and expanding the bureaucracy.

Abkhazia and another Georgian breakaway region, South Ossetia, declared independence following a brief war between Georgia and Russia in 2008. Only Russia and a handful of other countries have recognized the two regions.

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