May 20, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a press conference in Moscow on May 17. Natalia Kolesnikova/Pool/Reuters

Police removed several people Saturday outside the Kvareli Lake Hotel in the country of Georgia, where relatives of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were reportedly staying, according to Georgian public broadcaster First Channel. 

The opposition United National Movement party held a protest outside the hotel in northeastern Georgia to express their anger following local media reports that Lavrov’s relatives were staying there.

Videos posted on social media showed violent scenes of police officers roughly grabbing protesters gathered outside the hotel. In one video, police officers can be seen holding a protester by the throat. 

Georgian media reported that Lavrov’s relatives had traveled to Georgia for the wedding of the brother of Lavrov’s son-in-law, Alexandre Vinokourov. 

Lavrov’s daughter, Ekaterina Vinokurova — who is married to Vinokourov — has been sanctioned by the UK, the United States and Canada.

Police removed several people outside the Kvareli Lake Hotel in Georgia on May 20.
Police removed several people outside the Kvareli Lake Hotel in Georgia on May 20. Formula News/Twitter

Tensions are already high this week, after direct flights between Russia and Georgia resumed Friday, lifting restrictions imposed in 2019.

The move was condemned by the country’s President Salome Zourabichvili, who holds a largely ceremonial role and has opposed the government’s alignment with Russia.

Zourabichvili expressed disbelief Saturday that the Georgian government didn’t know that “the daughter of the highest-ranking official, from Putin’s immediate circle, who is under sanctions” had entered Georgia for the wedding, First Channel said.

The president said she had been informed by a government official that the family has now left the country, but she urged authorities to heed the lists of Russian individuals sanctioned by Georgia’s “partner countries.”

More about Georgia: Since winning its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia has played a balancing act between pro-European sentiment among its citizens and the influence of its powerful neighbor Russia. The country’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, has faced repeated accusations of close ties with Moscow, most notably during efforts to pass a foreign agents bill in March, which critics said mirrored controversial Russian laws. 

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