At least 16 people, including members of the nation’s Parliament, have been arrested in the eastern region of Kakheti, Georgia, after clashes with police over a wedding involving family members of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
According to information obtained by Pirveli Arkhi, a local Georgian news outlet, the daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Ekaterina Lavrova, is attending a wedding at the hotel “Kvarli Lake”, along with several other unnamed members of the extended family. Lavrova is subject to the Western sanctions enacted after Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. According to Pirveli Arkhi, Lavrova’s husband, Alexander Vinokurov, is also in Georgia and is also sanctioned.
Additional information shows that Mika Vinokurov, the brother of Lavrov’ son-in-law and on the list of sanctioned individuals, had held a wedding the capital of Tbilisi and had planned for a post-wedding gathering at the resort. He is the one who is reportedly paying for the events.
The information was denied by the hotel, but journalists called the hotel claiming to be delivering flowers and asked to confirm that the delivery was for someone under the name “Ekaterina Lavrova”. The hotel staff said yes, but when the information was reported, the hotel denied the allegations and reiterated that Lavrova and her party were not on the premises.
In response to this, multiple members of the opposition parties in Parliament and citizens gathered at the road leading to the hotel to protests their presence. Police established a defensive line, but the police and protestors engaged in fist fights, with law enforcement detaining members of the group. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 16 people had been arrested as a result of the clashes.
Georgia President Salome Zurabishvili announced at a news conference that “I was informed by the Interior Minister that this family and the people who planned a wedding event today have left and the wedding will not take place today,” and that “this is a kind of victory for society”.
She criticized the authorities, saying “this is an insult to the Georgian people, who know how to protect their freedom”. She added that “no one needs gifts from the country that is a permanent occupying power”, referring to the Russian controlled territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Ruling party in parliament, “Georgian Dream”, chairman Irakli Kobakhidze lashed out, calling the protestors and opposition party members “xenophobic”. “We predicted that as the tourist season approached, a new wave of xenophobic campaign would definitely begin, and now it has come true,” he stated.
“Xenophobia is not in the nature of Georgian society. This is an offshoot of the liberal-fascist agitation, and I urge everyone to refrain from doing so. There is no place for xenophobia in Georgia.”
The clashes between opposition and the ruling party in power, allegedly under pressure from the Kremlin, have mirrored similar instances seen in Belarus in 2020. This also comes after a night of demonstrations in front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi and at the airport where the first direct Moscow-Tbilisi flights were landing. People, including the opposition party leaders, gather to oppose the move to allow flights, calling it appeasement of the Russian regime that has sought to make friends after its economic and political isolation following the invasion of Ukraine.