Reject Russian-style Foreign Agents Bill, Protesters Siege Georgian Parliament


Rejecting the Russian-style Foreign Agents Bill, demonstrators surround the Georgian parliament. Photo/RT

TBILISI – Thousands of protesters, some wearing gas masks and helmets, surrounded the Georgian parliament building in the capital Tbilisi on Wednesday evening local time, protesting against a law that would curb foreign-funded NGOs. Police used tear gas, water cannon and flash-bangs to try to disperse them.

In the most recent clashes, protesters used Molotov cocktails and fireworks against police, prompting a violent response. According to local media, the authorities are trying to unblock the parliament building and expel the demonstrators.

Live footage of the protest showed demonstrators trying to break through the gates and enter the parliament building. Several windows in the parliament building were smashed. At one point, gunshots were heard.

The protests started after a parliamentary majority approved a bill requiring any organization that receives more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register as a foreign agent. Opposition politicians criticized the proposal for imitating Russian legislation and argued that it endangered Georgian democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Police managed to break up the rioting outside the parliament building on Tuesday night, arresting more than 60 people for disorderly conduct. On Wednesday, opposition groups issued an ultimatum demanding the release and repeal of the foreign agents law.

Giorgi Vashadze, whose party has three seats in the 150-member parliament, called on protesters to peacefully and non-violently surround parliament.

The United States (US) gave a vote of support to the demonstrators, with the embassy in Tbilisi denouncing the passage of the law as a “dark day for democracy” in Georgia. The US State Department said Washington may impose sanctions on the Georgian government over its crackdown on the protests.

President Salome Zurabishvili recorded a video address from New York on Tuesday night, also denouncing the bill and vowing to veto it. A former French ambassador to Georgia, Zurabishvili became a Georgian citizen – and foreign minister – after the US-backed “Rose Revolution” of 2003.

Irakli Kobakhidze, leader of the ruling ‘Dream of Georgia’ party, denounced opposition groups seeking to restore the spy revolution that gave Georgia nine years of torture, extortion, anti-European censorship and the loss of 20% of territory.

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