Clash in Georgia’s ethnically diverse city of Gardabani

Georgia’s Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani believed the clash was not politically motivated. Photo by RFE/RL, 29 May 2014 - 18:55, Tbilisi,Georgia

Dozens of people from two ethnic groups were involved in a verbal and physical altercation in Gardabani last night, where ethnic Azerbaijani and ethnic Georgians live in the same community.

The local Azeri population today held a protest rally and demand to punish initiators of yesterday’s clash.

Locals said last night’s confrontation had nothing to do with ethnical conflict but was an act of personal confrontation. They believed the clash occurred after groups of local young people mocked each other.

On the other hand, other believed the clash was politically motivated. Some of those involved in the incident were supporters and members of the United National Movement (UNM) and Georgian Dream political parties.

Georgia’s Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani believed the clash was not politically motivated, the incident tarnished the pre-election campaign process.

At the Interagency Commission meeting today, Tsulukiani said: "Our Azerbaijani brothers, our compatriots should put away personal conflicts and realize that now is the election period and the whole world have their eyes on us and are observing how we behave.”

An investigation has begun to find the motive behind the Gardabani incident, Georgia’s Interior Ministry announced.

Both parties blame the other of engaging in "provocative actions” ahead of the June 15 municipal election.

Georgian Dream claimed UNM wanted to cause chaos before the election. In response, UNM said Georgian Dream, the current ruling party, were afraid of losing the election.

The acting Governor of Gardabani, Ambako Avaliani, said the clash was fuelled by a group people who were ruled by Ramin Bairamov - the Chairman of the UNM’s Gardabani organization.

"He had his own group assault three ethnic Georgians … [which was] followed by verbal abuse, which turned into yesterday’s quarrel,” Avaliani said.

Georgian political expert Mamuka Areshidze said the situation in Gardabani was "a play”.

He believed yesterday’s incident in Gardabani was not a confrontation between Georgians and Azerbaijani citizens of Georgia, but one group of Azerbaijani people opposed to another group of fellow citizens.

For this reason, he said discussions about the situation having ethnic tensions were incorrect.

No one has yet been arrested in connection with the incident.