President Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning Russian airlines from flying to Georgia, starting in July, after violent clashes in the neighbouring country over a Moscow lawmaker speaking in parliament in Tbilisi.
“From July 8, 2019, Russian airlines are temporarily banned from undertaking flights from the territory of the Russian Federation to the territory of Georgia,” said the decree published on the Kremlin website.
In Tbilisi, protesters took to the streets for a second day Friday calling for snap parliamentary polls and the ruling party”s oligarch leader to cede power following a police crackdown that left 240 people injured.
About 15,000 people gathered outside parliament to express anger over the behind-the-scenes rule of Georgia”s richest man Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream party.
The demonstrations followed an uproar over a Russian lawmaker giving an address to parliament from the speaker”s seat on Thursday — a hugely controversial move in an ex-Soviet country that fought a war with Russia in 2008.
Tensions between the two countries remain high after the conflict over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Protesters brandished placards reading “Stop the USSR” and “Don”t shoot at us — we are your children”.
The protests have morphed into a broader movement against the authorities, mainly Ivanishvili who is thought to control power in the Western-backed state.
According to the health ministry, at least 160 demonstrators and 80 police officers were injured Thursday when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowds. More than 300 people were arrested.
On Friday, the head of Georgia”s parliament quit under pressure from demonstrators.