Russian rugby club dismisses Georgian players after they express support for Tbilisi rallies

Georgian rugby players covered their eyes in support of Tbilisi protests after they put scored a try during a match in Russia., 03 Jul 2019 - 11:26, Tbilisi,Georgia

Russian rugby club Slava has suspended contracts with two Georgian rugby players Rezi Brodzeli and Saba Iluridze after the two celebrated a try in a match in Russia with one of their eyes covered, expressing solidarity with the Tbilisi rallies.

With the gesture I expressed support for my people not for politicians. They [the club leadership] thought that the action had a political connotation and that we were negative towards Russians,” Brodzeli told Rugby TV.

Rallies in Tbilisi broke out after Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov took the seat of the Georgian parliamentary speaker on June 20, during the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy held in the Georgian parliament building.

Demonstrators in Tbilisi with their eyes covered. Photo: Nino Alavidze/

The opposition interrupted the session and Russian MPs were forced to leave the parliament and the country.

In response Russia “temporarily banned” direct flights to Georgia.

The Georgian Interior Ministry dispersed the June 20 rally on the Rustaveli Avenue with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, after the demonstrators tried to storm the parliament building, leaving 240 injured and 305 detained.

Two individuals lost one of their eyes during the dispersal, which encouraged more young people to join the rallies.

Many of the demonstrators had one of their eyes covered in support of those losing eyes during the protests.

The rallies led to the resignation of Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze and a promise by the ruling Georgian Dream to fully proportional elections in 2020.