TBILISI, DFWatch–At least two people were injured as protesters clashed with police in a village near Tskaltubo Tuesday evening.
The clashes broke out as special forces arrived in the village of Sakulia in order to arrest a 29-year-old man for involvement in protests against the Namakhvani hydropower project.
Clashes took place as police arrived at the local cemetery, where locals were building the grave of a dead relative.
According to locals, law enforcers were exceedingly aggressive and shot rubber bullets at the gathered people. Some of them claim that the police also fired several shots at them from firearms.
The operation aimed at arresting Irakli Mukbaniani, one of the participants in ongoing civil protests against the planned hydroelectric facility. He was arrested and rushed away by the police. The Ministry of Internal Affairs claims he physically assaulted a police officer during a protest rally earlier.
The confrontation between the government and part of the population of the Rioni Valley has been going on for several months. They are protesting against the construction of two large dams, with 100 MW and 333 MW capacity, on the river Rioni. Campaigners claim the project is going ahead as a result of a corrupt deal between the top echelons of the government and a Turkish company, Enka. They claim the project will expose their communities and homes to environmental risks.
90% of shares in the Namakhvani project are owned by the Turkish company Enka, while 10% are owned by the Norwegian company Clean Energy Group.
The protest campaign, dubbed the Rioni Valley Guardians, has resonated with broad sections of Georgian society and many public figures, and politicians from left and right of the spectrum have expressed their support.