23:31 GMT05 May 2021
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    The Georgian authorities will never let the country slide back into chaos in the wake of the riots in the regional capital Batumi despite ill intentions by opposition figures, the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party said Sunday.

    TBILISI (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, police finished clearing protesters and rioters from central Batumi after overnight anti-police riots left the Chavchavadze Street smashed and lined with burned out cars. The disorder was sparked by a standoff between a driver and a traffic police officer the night before.

    "Regardless of how much our enemies and radical United National Movement leaders want chaos to return to our country, this will never happen. Together with the people and the government of Adjara, we will protect peace and continue development. The city will soon return to normal and those who suffered will receive support from the authorities," the party said in a statement, referring to now-exiled former President Mikheil Saakashvili's party.

    A group of those responsible for the clashes has been arrested and police operations continued, the statement added, stressing that the government response ensured no escalation took place.

    "We condemn actions that took place on March 11-12 during which aggressive groups harmed peaceful citizens, police officers as well as public property. The government responded accordingly and prevented an escalation of the situation by applying proportional force, with police preventing violence and restoring order within several hours," the party said.

    The riots erupted after a traffic police officer tried issuing a driver a fine while verbally abusing him. Witnesses said several locals defended the driver, engaging in clashes with police, with six people detained as a result. The arrests prompted hundreds of people to gather in front of the local Interior Ministry building and demand for the new traffic police chief to resign, blaming him for excessive fines.

    The Georgian Interior Ministry ordered the release of all six people detained earlier in an attempt to quell the violence. Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has accused "destructive" political forces of causing the riots, stressing that police were in minimum response mode to avoid any escalation.

    A total of 40 people have been detained in the wake of the violence, according to Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili.


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