Protests greet Russian cruise ship as it docks in Georgia for the second time

Large protests have greeted a Russian cruise ship docking in the Georgian port city of Batumi on Monday (31 July). It is the second such protest in less than a week after the Astoria Grande docked on Thursday (27 July) despite protests, and left Georgia two days earlier than scheduled.

Major demonstrations had already begun outside the port in Batumi around midnight on Monday, hours before the cruise ship, which is reported to be carrying a number famous Russian media personalities and celebrities who have expressed support for Russia's ongoing invasion, docked in Batumi. 

Georgian police erected metal barriers to prevent civilian access to the port citing security concerns, and local media have reported that Georgian special forces have also been mobilised.

Protesters arrested as Russian tourist bus targeted

Protesters waved Georgian and Ukrainian flags, shouted anti-Russian slogans, and some tried breaking through the police barricade. 

The cruise ship docked around 6am, and it is understood that tourists began disembarking around 10am. As of midday, at least 10 protesters in Batumi have been arrested, and protests against Russian cruise ship have spread to Tbilisi.

Buses carrying tourists from the cruise ship heading towards the centre of the city were also targeted by protesters, who threw water bottles and eggs.

First Russian cruise ship in Batumi leaves two days early

The same cruise ship - the Astoria Grande - also docked in Batumi on Thursday last week after sailing from Sochi.

That arrival was similarly greeted by angry protesters after tourists on board in interviews with local media claimed that Russia had not occupied Georgia, that "we are still in the Soviet Union", and one person openly stated that she had visited Abkhazia, which is a violation of Georgian law.

On that occasion, the cruise ship departed Batumi two days earlier than planned. Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili tweeted that she was "proud of our people protesting peacefully the latest russian provocation".

Meanwhile the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan wrote that "Georgians are wonderful, hospitable, warm hosts." She added, "I don’t think everyone should be surprised, everyone should be expected to welcome anyone who is occupying territory, who is keeping your families apart, who is detaining your citizens, I don’t think anyone should be surprised that many Georgians did not welcome the arrival of this ship."

It has also been reported that the Russian cruise company operating the Astoria Grande has since removed Batumi in Georgia from its list of potential destinations following Monday's protests.

source: commonspace.eu with agencies
photo: Twitter

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