The visit of a Russian lawmaker to Georgia sparked protests in the country which has long been caught in a political tussle with Moscow.

Tens of thousands of Georgians have been protesting the visit of a Russian lawmaker to the parliament since Thursday last week.

Public anger morphed into nationwide protests after Russian lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov addressed an assembly of Orthodox Christian lawmakers. 

Later, Gavrilov told Russian media that water was thrown at him and some unknown people tried to snatch the documents he carried. According to several news reports, the lawmaker has left Georgia.

Georgian police have reportedly fired at crowds with rubber bullets, injuring two protestors. 

Gavrilov led the Russian delegation in Georgia to attend the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a body set up by the Greek parliament in 1993 to foster relationships between Christian Orthodox lawmakers of various countries.

Georgia declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and soon after separation movements emerged in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgia had a major military confrontation with Russia in 2008 when Russian forces invaded South Ossetia and Abkhazia and declared the two regions independent. Moscow continues to have its military deployed in the two breakaway states.

Once an ally of the former Soviet Union, Georgia is now a US ally, making moves to be part of NATO and the European Union.

A decade after fighting a war, Russia and Georgia still do not have any diplomatic ties. 

Despite being staunch rivals, bilateral trade and tourism between the two countries have been increasing in recent years.

Since protests erupted, Russian President Vladimir Putin has temporarily banned Georgian flights over Russia. The ban will start on July 8. 

Russia had already imposed an air traffic embargo on Georgian flights in 2006. 

Russia also tries to suspend all tours to Georgia by making recommendations to travel agencies.

Thousands of Russian tourists are still in Georgia, according to a Russian tour agency representative. 

Since the beginning of this year, nearly half a million Russian tourists have visited Georgia according to Russian data, while the total number of tourists was 1.7 million last year.

Source: TRT World