Thousands of Georgians defy warnings to join protest against 'Russia' bill | Politics News


Protesters are angry at government efforts to pass a law against 'foreign agents' that mirrors repressive Russian law.

Thousands of Georgians have joined fresh protests in Tbilisi against a Russian-style “foreign agents” bill, as the government insists it will pass the legislation after the biggest protests since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. will advance.

Protesters began gathering around 10:00 a.m. (18:00 GMT) on Sunday, with many pledging to spend the night outside to prevent lawmakers from entering the building for the bill's third reading on Monday.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze earlier said he aimed to pass the bill this week and threatened to prosecute protesters.

The bill requires organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence or face criminal penalties.

Carrying EU and Georgian flags, protesters marched down Tbilisi's central Rustaveli Avenue, as pro-Georgian EU President Salome Zorabishvili warned protesters to beware of “provocation”, with some activists harassing them. Days after being carried out and facing protesters with water cannons and tear gas.

Authorities warned that they would arrest those who tried to disrupt parliament.

But protesters appeared determined to block the bill – which they fear would derail Georgia's long-standing goal of joining the European Union and likened it to Russia's 2012 “foreign agents” law. , which is used to suppress critics of the government. .

“As students, we don't see a future with this Russian law,” said Nadezhda Polyakova, 20, who was born and raised in Georgia but is ethnically Russian.

He added that we stand with Europe.

“I am not going anywhere. This is my 35th day of protest and I will stay here all night,” said student Vakhtang Rukhia. “I'm so mad and angry.”

The protests have been dominated by Georgia's younger generation, many still in school or university.

“We are not afraid. We are Gen Z and we are Georgians,” said Nino, 19, who did not want to give her last name, worried about her mother's job in the state sector.

The ruling Georgia Dream party initially tried to push the law through last year but was forced to abandon the plan after a backlash.

Since then, the party's billionaire founder and funder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has denounced NGOs as domestic enemies, accusing them of working for foreign governments and plotting revolution.

The bill was revived in April with only one change. Under the latest version, NGOs, media and journalists must register as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power” instead of “agents of foreign influence”.

Protesters accuse the government of bringing the ex-Soviet country back into Moscow's orbit after a 2008 war in which Russia seized the Georgian region of Abkhazia.

Georgia, which has traditionally had warm relations with the West, was granted EU candidate status in December.

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