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Thousands protest in Georgia calling for an end to Russian occupation

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By Mark Armstrong  with Reuters
Thousands protest in Georgia calling for an end to Russian occupation
Copyright  REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

Around ten thousand people took to the streets of Georgia's capital to march for peace.

The protesters are demanding that Russia removes its forces from the country's neighbouring regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

They're also calling for the Georgian Interior Minister, Giorgi Gakharia, to resign after hundreds of police officers and protestors were injured last week when a Russian lawmaker visited the parliament in Tbilisi.

"Mainly we are protesting for two things," explained one of the protesters, Mariam Geguchadze, "first is the occupation of Russia, because we believe that everyone inside this country and everyone outside of this country should remember, that not only is 20 per cent of Georgia occupied by Russia, but they continue to oppress us every day, every month. And the second thing is that we want Gakharia to leave because of what he has done on the 20th of June."

Russian influence in Georgia remains a politically sensitive subject. The small country, which is a US ally, fought and lost a short war against Moscow in 2008.

The two countries have not had diplomatic ties since, and Russia went on to recognise the independence of two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russian troops are now garrisoned.