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30,000 demonstrators in the streets in Georgia after the vote on the “Russian law”

Photo: Giorgi Arjevanidze Agence France-Presse Protesters voiced their disagreement with the draft law on “foreign influence” in front of the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi on Wednesday evening. This controversial bill threatens to hinder the country's accession to the European Union.

France Media Agency to Tbilisi

Published yesterday at 8:16 p.m. Updated yesterday at 8:40 p.m.

  • Europe

Some 30,000 Georgians opposed to a controversial bill passed the day before in parliament, which threatens to hinder the country's accession to the EU, gathered again on Wednesday evening in the center of the capital Tbilisi, according to AFP.

The day after this vote, NATO, the European Commission and the UN condemned this government initiative. The law on “foreign interference”, inspired by legislation in force in Russia to suppress the opposition, was voted on Tuesday in final reading by Georgian deputies.

The demonstrations against this text, which targets the media and NGOs receiving foreign funds, have lasted for more than a month, bringing together considerable crowds brandishing European, Ukrainian and Georgian flags and chanting slogans against Russia, which made the war on Georgia in 2008.

Thousands of people began Wednesday evening to block a major intersection in Tbilisi, paralyzing traffic in the central districts of the capital.

“We have been taking to the streets day after day for over a month and we will not back down until this Russian law is repealed,” said AFP Anuka Liparteliani, a 19-year-old student. “And in the fall, we will drive out this pro-Russian government,” she added, referring to the legislative elections scheduled for October.

30,000 demonstrators in the streets in Georgia after the vote on the “Russian law”

Photo: Giorgi Arjevanidze Agence France-Presse Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis (center) joined several of his colleagues from the region in the demonstration in front of the Georgian parliament on Wednesday.

The foreign ministers of Estonia, Iceland and Lithuania, visiting the country, joined the march to the demonstration site, before addressing to the crowd as a sign of solidarity with the demonstrators.

“We are here to support the aspirations of the Georgian people to be part of the European Union and NATO,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told AFP. “We are at their side, they are not alone, their concerns are heard, they are supported,” he added.

We are at their side, they are not alone, their concerns are heard, they are supported

—Gabrielius Landsbergis

The national anthem of Georgia and the European Union's Ode to Joy were performed at the rally.

Protests against the law also took place in the towns of Kutaisi and Tsalenjikha, in the west of the country.

The head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, on behalf of the European Commission, called on Georgia to “withdraw” this law, deemed contrary to the “values” and “essential standards” of the EU. His vote has “a negative impact” on this state’s accession process to the EU, he underlined in a press release.

Also read

  • “Foreign influence” law passed in Georgia, despite protests
  • In Georgia, thousands of demonstrators despite government warnings

Georgia has officially been a candidate for entry into the European Union since December 2023.

It also aspires to join NATO, of which the spokesperson, Farah Dakhlallah, denounced on X (formerly Twitter) a measure which “distances” it from its “European and Euro-Atlantic integration”.The 27 members of the European Union, however, failed to reach agreement on a common text, due to opposition from Hungary and Slovakia, according to diplomats in Brussels.

Viktor Orbán's Hungary is among the EU countries the one that is Moscow's closest ally. She refuses any military support to Ukraine at war against Russia.

Georgian President Salomé Zourabichvili, a pro-European in open conflict with the government, should put her veto the new law but the ruling Georgian Dream party claims to have enough votes in Parliament to override it.

Warnings ignored

“The impacts [of the law] on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Georgia are unfortunately now likely to be significant,” regretted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. man, Volker Türk.

The United States reacted on Tuesday by warning that it could “reevaluate” its relations with Georgia.

The Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian and Icelandic foreign ministers traveled to Tbilisi on Wednesday to express their concern.

30,000 demonstrators in the streets in Georgia after the vote on the “Russian law”

Photo: Press Service of the Georgian Presidency via AFP From left to right: the Estonian foreign ministers, Margus Tsahkna, Icelandic, Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, Latvian, Baiba Braže, Lithuanian, Gabrielius Landsbergis, went to Tbilisi on Wednesday to express their concern. In our photo, their joint press briefing on Wednesday with the President of Georgia, Salomé Zourabichvili, also against the bill.

During a press conference, the head of Lithuanian diplomacy, Gabrielius Landsbergis, affirmed that “cosmetic changes” to the text would not make it compatible with EU standards.

President Zourabichvili proposed amendments to the bill but warned, during this press conference with the Baltic and Icelandic representatives, against any “artificial” negotiations.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said for his part he was ready to discuss possible changes.

As it currently stands, the text requires any NGO or media receiving more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register as an “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power” and to subject to administrative control.

Its critics have nicknamed it “Russian law” because of its similarity to legislation passed in Russia to suppress the opposition.

The reference is sensitive in Georgia, a country that swings between Russian and European spheres of influence and was the target of Russian military intervention in 2008.< /p>

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116