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Georgia PM says copycat Russian law to be passed Tuesday amid protests

Georgia PM says 'foreign influence' bill will be adopted Tuesday despite protests
Source: Video Screenshot

Georgia’s prime minister on Monparliament the next dayday vowed to ram controversial “foreign influence” legislation through despite mass protests against the law criticised for mirroring repressive Russian legislation.

His comments came as hundreds of young Georgians were crowded outside parliament ahead of a third straight night of protests against the bill that has split the Caucasus country and triggered international condemnation.

A month of tensions over the bill that has been dubbed the “Russian law” by its critics is approaching a critical point, with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze confirming lawmakers would pass the bill on Tuesday.

“Tomorrow the parliament of Georgia will act on the will of the majority of the population and pass the law in the third reading,” he said in a televised address, as protesters gathered outside parliament.

He warned that if authorities backed down, Georgia would lose sovereignty and “easily share the fate of Ukraine”, although it was not immediately clear what he meant by that.

He also said that if the bill was dropped then protesters would next force the government to back down on other issues — such as “same-sex legalisation” and “uncontrolled immigration”.

The Georgian capital Tbilisi has been gripped by its largest street protests in years since April, when authorities revived plans that were shelved a year ago after a similar wave of rallies.

Georgian students announced a strike on Monday and planned to march down Tbilisi’s main Rustaveli Avenue to parliament later in the evening.

 

– Police crowd Tbilisi –

 

Police were out in force on Monday guarding the building.

Opponents say that passing the law would sabotage Georgia’s hopes of joining the European Union and accuse the ruling party of moving the Black Sea nation closer to Moscow.

On Monday morning, protesters tried to block ruling Georgian Dream MPs from entering parliament.

The lawmakers managed to access the building from the back and pushed the bill through a parliamentary legal committee — needed before it goes to a vote — in less than two minutes.

The law requires advocacy groups and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as an organisation “pursuing the interests of a foreign power”.

Russia has used a similar law to stifle dissent, targeting independent NGOs, journalists and political opponents.

Georgian Dream MP Nikoloz Samkharadze hit out at the outrage over the law in an interview with AFP on Monday, saying it has “nothing to do with the Russian” version.

He also insisted Georgian Dream was committed to European integration.

Protesters, the opposition, the EU and international rights groups have decried the law as undemocratic and Brussels has indicated it is not compatible with membership of the bloc.

 

– ‘As long as it takes’ –

 

Outside parliament, the mood was unpredictable, with riot police crowded in one street behind parliament, and protesters appearing defiant.

“We are planning to stay here for as long as it takes,” 22-year-old Mariam Karlandadze told AFP.

AFP journalists saw hundreds of riot police lining a street behind parliament, where police had carried out detentions at dawn.

Georgia later opened a probe into the abuse of police power after the EU, which granted Tbilisi candidate status last year, urged an investigation.

The interior minister said police had arrested 20 people, including a Russian and two Americans, at night.

Georgian Dream — in power since 2012 — has defended the law as necessary for the country’s sovereignty.

Its billionaire backer Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, has accused NGOs of plotting a revolution and being foreign puppets.

He has been accused of leaning towards Moscow and has not publicly condemned the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many protesters see the bill as a symbol of their government’s wider drift towards Moscow.

Some have worn Ukrainian flags at the rallies and urge Tbilisi to be more vocal about supporting Kyiv.

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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