On March 8, a wave of anti-government protests swept across Georgia. Thousands of demonstrators, holding flags of the US, the EU and, for some reason, Ukraine, surrounded the parliament building in Tbilisi in the evening protesting against the law the purpose of which was to restrict activities of foreign-funded NGOs. The police used tear gas, water cannons and stun bombs to disperse the crowd.
Protests in Georgia started on Tuesday, when protesters used Molotov cocktails and fireworks against the police causing law-enforcers to respond. The authorities tried to push the demonstrators away from the parliament building.
The protests in Georgia started after a parliamentary majority voted in favour of the bill on foreign agents. In accordance with the bill any organisation receiving more than 20 percent of its funding from abroad was supposed to be registered as a foreign agent. Opposition politicians claimed that the new law was copying a similar Russian law. They assumed that the Georgian law was putting Georgian democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration in jeopardy.
On Tuesday evening, the police managed to disperse the riots outside the parliament building. More than 60 people were arrested. On Wednesday, the opposition issued an ultimatum demanding all the arrested individuals be released and the law on foreign agents be abolished.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who is currently in New York, recorded a video message on Tuesday evening in which she condemned the "foreign agents" bill and vowed to veto it.
Noteworthy, former French Ambassador to Georgia Salome Zurabishvili became a Georgian citizen and foreign minister after the US-backed Rose Revolution of 2003.
Irakli Kobakhidze, the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, condemned the opposition for seeking to revive the "spy revolution” that gave Georgia "nine anti-European years of torture, extortion, censorship and the loss of 20 percent of territory”:
"Today's Georgian society is mature enough to prevent a new revolution and a return to the past,” Kobakhidze told reporters, stressing that "in the end, riots will subside” and "the new law will ensure transparency regarding those who fund extremist organisations engaged in Bolshevik propaganda.” "If we do not protect the state from spies, we will not be able to become members of the European Union — we will lose our sovereignty as well," he added.
The United States supported the protests. The US Embassy in Tbilisi condemned the adoption of the law as a "black day for democracy" in Georgia. The State Department said that Washington could impose sanctions on the government for dispersing the protest.
"Georgia risks losing EU support should it nevertheless pass the law on the registration of foreign agents,” Romanian MEP, vice president of the European People's Party bloc in the European Parliament, Siegfried Muresan said on Wednesday.
In an interview with Romanian publication Digi 24, he stressed out that the requirement to NGOs to disclose information about foreign funding was an "attack on democracy":
"This is intimidation of the civil society,” Muresan said. "Requiring organisations involved in press freedom, human rights and helping Ukrainian refugees to register as foreign agents if they get at least 20 percent of their funding from abroad is nothing but intimidation of organisations that are important for democracy. This does not meet European standards at all."
To finally dot all the i's, Muresan accused Tbilisi of lagging behind Moldova and Ukraine in the implementation of EU reforms.
"The European Union expects people to be free to express themselves and any attempt to intimidate those who take to the streets will not be accepted," he said.
Ukrainian President Zelensky supported the protesters and thanking them for using the flag and anthem of Ukraine in the campaign against the law against foreign agents.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia had nothing to do with Georgia's bill on foreign agents, which the authorities eventually withdrew.
"Nothing has been inspired by the Kremlin there. The Kremlin has absolutely nothing to do with it,” Peskov said when asked to comment on the claim that the bill was allegedly inspired by the Kremlin.
Quite on the contrary, the pioneer of such laws is the United State, Peskov noted:
"One of the versions of the bill, if we understand it correctly, was identical to a similar US law. The second version of the document is less similar to the American law, but was much softer in nature. We have nothing to do with either,” the Kremlin spokesman said.
The United States and the European Union strictly suppress any foreign interference in their internal affairs. In case of Georgia, they decided to stage an unconstitutional coup, Andrey Klishas, the head of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building wrote on his Telegram channel on March 9.
The Georgian authorities tried to understand what was happening with foreign funding of numerous non-governmental organisations. The initiative led to mobs with Molotov cocktails storming the parliament, Klishas said.
Klishas recalled how the US and the EU urge the authorities of other states to "act with restraint", but the demonstrative "restraint" of the American police during the storming of the Capitol, when one of the protesters was fatally shot was more than just indicative, he added.
"Governments must be replaced as a result of elections, rather than bloody colour revolutions funded by foreign governments,” the senator concluded.
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