Tens of thousands march in Tbilisi against Georgia’s ‘Foreign Agents’ bill – Reuters

Demonstrators rally to protest against 'foreign agents' bill in Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 11
Demonstrators rally to protest against 'foreign agents' bill in Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 11

About 50,000 people opposing a “foreign agents” bill, also known as “the Russian law” for its similarity with Russian legislation targeting Kremlin’s critics, marched through the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on May 11, Reuters reported.

<span class="copyright">REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze</span>
REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

The peaceful rally took place the next day after Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze announced that the government would push forward the bill despite opposition from what he described as "misled" youth who feel offended by Russia.

Parliament, which is controlled by the ruling Georgian Dream party and its allies, will begin committee hearings on the bill's third and final reading on May 12.

On May 3, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said that the law, triggering large protests in Tbilisi, was not a sole concern, the main issue being related to country’s “Russian government.

The “foreign agents” bill and protests in Georgia

Mass protests swept through Georgia on April 9 following the announcement by Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority, of his party’s intention to reintroduce a bill on ‘foreign agents,’ also known as the ‘Russian law.’ Security forces moved to disperse demonstrators in Tbilisi on April 16.

The Georgian legislature approved the bill in its first reading on April 17. The measure mandates the registration of non-profit entities and media receiving over 20% of their income from abroad as ‘organizations acting in the interests of a foreign state.’ The bill requires three votes for passage in the Georgian parliament to become law.”

Zourabichvili has promised to veto the document.

<span class="copyright">REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze</span>
REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze stated on April 18 that the “foreign agents” bill aims to safeguard the country from “Ukrainization.” In response, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that the real threat to Georgia is Russification, not “mystical Ukrainization,” warning that using Ukraine derogatorily harms Ukrainian-Georgian relations.

On the same day, members of the European Parliament voiced concerns that the adoption of Georgia’s controversial “foreign agents” bill could jeopardize the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts.

Read also: Ukraine should take a closer look at what’s going on in Georgia — opinion

On April 25, the European Parliament passed a resolution regarding Georgia’s foreign influence transparency bill, casting doubt on the country’s EU accession talks while the law is active.

Clashes erupted between police and protesters near the Georgian parliament on April 30. President Zourabichvili urged an end to the protest dispersal in Tbilisi and held the government responsible for the unrest.

On May 1, the Interior Ministry announced that police had arrested 60 demonstrators, charging them with hooliganism and disobeying lawful police orders. Six police officers sustained injuries during the clashes.

Later that day, the Georgian parliament approved the “foreign agents” bill in its second reading.

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