The Parliament of Georgia rejected the bill on “Russian Law”
At the plenary session, the Parliament of Georgia voted on the second reading of the “Russian Law” and rejected it. According to the voting results, the bill was supported by one deputy, and 35 were against it.
The opposition MPs displayed the flags of the European Union and Georgia first at the tables and then at the tribune.
On 9 March, the parliamentary majority of “Georgian Dream” issued a statement, in which they stated that they would withdraw the “Russian Law” on agents of foreign influence, which had already been passed in the first reading and had caused mass protests.
As for the alternative bill of the deputies of the pro-Russian “People’s Power ” in the parliamentary majority, which was called the so-called American bill, the initiators withdrew it with their signatures.
In Georgia, the first reading of the “Russian Law” was followed by mass protests. The draft law obliged non-governmental organizations and media outlets with a large part of their funding (at least 20%) from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence.
Moscow threatens Georgia following the Protest Rallies in Tbilisi
Representatives of the Russian authorities and Kremlin propagandists are actively commenting on the events related to the protests in Tbilisi against the “Russian Law”. Some of them declare that the bill initiated in the Parliament of Georgia, which the ruling party Georgian Dream has already withdrawn after 3 days of protests, has nothing to do with Russia, while others are already threatening Georgia with negative consequences of these events.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Russia was not involved in the “unrest” in Georgia and the “foreign agents” law. “Nothing there was inspired by the Kremlin, the Kremlin has absolutely nothing to do here,”- TASS quoted Peskov.
According to Peskov, the “pioneers” in such laws were the United States. “And one version of the (Georgian) bill, if we understand correctly, was very similar to a similar US law. The second version was less similar to the US law, was much milder in nature. But, of course, we have nothing to do with either one,” Peskov said.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reacted to a statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell criticizing “Russian Law” and said: “Borrel said that the foreign agents’ law that sparked protests in Tbilisi was incompatible with EU values. Now we understand why the U.S. is not yet in the European Union – there the law has been in force there since 1938.”
Grigory Karasin, member of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, and Russian representative at the informal talks with the representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Abashidze, also commented on Borrell’s statement.
After the ruling Georgian Dream announced its decision to withdraw the bill on “Russian Law”, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that “Washington has not allowed Georgia to become sovereign.”
According to Volodin, “if the law on foreign agents was passed, Georgia would get the right to control the funds transferred to the country from abroad,” to finance the opposition, the media and NGOs “forming an anti-Georgian agenda.”
The Kremlin propagandist and head of RT Margarita Simonyan claims that protesters in Tbilisi are shouting “Sukhumi! Sukhumi” and according to her it means that “all this fuss is only needed to open the second front for us”. As she wrote on her Facebook page, “in case of repetition of August 2008 no one will scratch with Georgia and will not send troops there, but will just fire at Tbilisi without much consideration.”
PM Garibashvili links Tbilisi protests to “Destructive, Anarchist” forces
In an interview with Imedi TV on 12 March, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili linked the March 7-9 protests in Tbilisi against the “Russian Law” to “destructive, anarchist and extremist forces” and said their purpose was to maintain “chaos and destabilization” in the country. The Prime Minister also spoke about EU membership, the European Parliament’s resolution on ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, the war in Ukraine and attempts to open a “second front” in Georgia.
Speaking about the 7-9 March rallies in Tbilisi, PM Garibashvili stressed that many young people who support EU integration participated in the rallies, but noted that the protests were orchestrated by members of the “destructive, anarchist” movement in coordination with the United National Movement, whose purpose was “to create chaos, maintain constant destabilization and unrest.” “They might have killed several young people themselves,” he added.
“I saw some photos, I was dismayed, some people, young people, were wearing the uniforms of Satanists, I do not want to show their faces, but it is disturbing what is happening here,” the PM said, stressing that “the collective National Movement has turned into an extremist organization, they are a little short of becoming a terrorist organization.”
Speaking to Imedi TV, PM Garibashvili reiterated that the purpose of the draft laws on “foreign agents” was “to register organizations of foreign influence” and “to ensure their transparency and accountability.” He also noted that similar laws have been passed in the United States, Great Britain and several EU countries. However, the Prime Minister said nothing about the local context and key differences.
The Prime Minister noted that many non-governmental organizations have been operating in Georgia for decades and their activities are opaque. “I would say that their finances and their activities lack transparency,” he stressed. “A lot of money is transferred to the accounts of NGOs – they have received hundreds of millions of dollars since our country regained its independence. Their goals are unclear, we have very little information about their activities, and we demanded a minimum of transparency and a minimum of accountability to our public.”
The Prime Minister also added that the government’s decision to withdraw them was “the most correct and reasonable decision.” in light of the situation surrounding the draft laws. “Thus, we have demonstrated that we will not allow anyone to cause destabilization, unrest and chaos or unleash a “second front” in the country,” he added.
Georgian PM’s controversial comments drew strong opposition backlash. They focused on Georgian Dream’s failure to address the 12 priorities presented by the European Commission to qualify for candidate status. Levan Khabeishvili, head of the “National Movement,” remarked, “Irakli Garibashvili reaffirmed yesterday that he and Bidzina Ivanishvili are determined to obstruct our path to EU candidacy. They will undoubtedly barricade the door and take every measure to prevent us from achieving EU status.”
The leader of “Strategy Agmashenebeli”, Giorgi Vashadze, condemned Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s remarks and said, “We have seen how brazenly and cowardly Garibashvili refers to young people, how he threatens them. No one is afraid of his threat. I tell him personally, don’t touch any young person, none of the peaceful demonstrators!”
The leader of “Girchi- More Freedom,” Zurab Japaridze, said: “The youth won this battle…If the youth’s goal was to change the government, the government would have been changed today.”
We are utterly grateful to our donors for the generous support we receive – but reader contributions will support us to make the EGI Digest more sustainable and will allow us to develop and improve. Our aim is to bring you reliable, fact-based and politically independent reporting. Support this critical public service by making a donation today. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our future. If you feel that our work is valuable and you are able and willing to donate, please reach us at digest(at)egi.ge