Parliament passes Russian Law with the first hearing

The Parliament of Georgia adopted the “Russian Law” in its first reading on April 17, during a plenary session. The bill, titled “On Transparency of Foreign Influence,” was unanimously supported after deliberations that began the previous day. A total of 83 MPs voted in favour of the draft law, with no opposition.

Previously, on April 15, the Legal Committee had also passed the law in its first reading. Concurrently, a protest against the law occurred outside the Parliament. Law enforcement prevented the protesters from circling the Parliament and deployed water cannons and special forces along Rustaveli Avenue. During the protest, the Ministry of Internal Affairs arrested 14 individuals.

Following the session, Georgia’s Prime Minister, Irakli Kobakhidze, expressed his gratitude at a briefing: “I want to thank the police officers who endured insults from aggressive groups and, with few exceptions, upheld the highest European standards in their response. We must caution those who orchestrate provocations through forum participants. Nothing will hinder our commitment to state sovereignty or the eventual enactment of this law.”

He criticized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for allegedly attempting to undermine the Orthodox Church’s reputation over the years. He suggested that had the transparency law been in place earlier, NGOs would have been more circumspect regarding their funding sources and avoided potential embarrassments for their donors.

This marks the second attempt to pass the Russian law, which was previously halted due to public protests. The ruling party, Georgian Dream, has made a minor amendment to the draft by replacing the term “agent” with “carrier of the interests of a foreign power.”

Zurabishvili – “I will veto this bill. This is the Voice of People”

In an interview with the BBC, the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, expressed her intention to veto the new Russian law proposed by the ruling party, “Georgian Dream.”

She highlighted a lack of transparency in high-level governmental decision-making, especially concerning the controversial bill, which she noted is opposed by Georgia’s European partners as being detrimental to the country’s European aspirations. “The critical question is about transparency: who decided to reintroduce this bill? Was the decision made within Georgia or influenced from outside, perhaps even from Russia? This lack of clarity is exactly what a significant portion of the Georgian population is questioning,” Zurabishvili stated.

President Zurabishvili declared her resolve to veto the law, emphasizing that her action reflects not just her personal stance but the collective demand of the Georgian people. “I will definitely veto the law. This isn’t just about a single law, but an entire strategy that contradicts the recommendations of the European Union. Although the parliament may override my veto, it represents the voice of the people—a voice that will resonate clearly and forcefully,” she affirmed.

Borrell and Várhelyi: This bill is inconsistent with the main norms and values of the EU

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security, Josep Borrell, and the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, issued a joint statement concerning the Georgian Parliament’s decision to pass the “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” law in its first reading.

The statement expressed serious concerns: “Despite numerous calls from the European Union to reject such legislation and amidst widespread protests, today, the Parliament of Georgia has adopted this law in the first reading. This development is deeply troubling, and the final passage of this law would negatively impact Georgia’s progression towards EU membership. The legislation stands in stark contrast to the fundamental norms and values of the European Union.”

They highlighted the potential repercussions on civil liberties: “Georgia boasts an active civil society that plays a crucial role in the country’s advancement towards EU integration. This proposed law threatens to curtail the freedoms of civil society and media organizations, restrict freedom of expression, and unjustly stigmatize groups that are instrumental to the welfare of Georgian citizens.”

The EU representatives concluded with a call to action: “The European Union strongly urges Georgia to reconsider adopting any legislation that could hinder its path to the EU—a path overwhelmingly supported by the Georgian populace.”

Rallies against Russian Law are being held in Tbilisi regularly on daily basis

Following the adoption of the Russian law by the Parliament of Georgia, protests erupted in Tbilisi.

A significant rally took place on April 17, attracting speakers from the arts and civil society sectors. 

Writer Lasha Bugadze addressed the crowd, saying, “No other name suits Ivanishvili’s regime than the Russian regime. Behind Ivanishvili stand his adherents, incessantly churning out rhetoric reminiscent of an unprepared Dmitry Medvedev. Putin, with his disdain for Georgians, underpins Ivanishvili’s regime with the full weight of Russian propaganda and support, ensuring that Georgia remains entangled with Russia, never breaking free from its influence. This is the stark reality faced by us, the Georgian nation.”

President Salome Zurabishvili also spoke passionately at the event, emphasizing the resolve of the Georgian people: “This marks the third night of dignified protests against the adoption of the Russian law. On one side are the Georgian people; on the other, the 83 

parliamentarians who voted against our European future. The people will always prevail!”

The demonstrations continued in subsequent days. Young people marched from Rustaveli Avenue in various directions, voicing their opposition to the law’s passage

MP Aleko Elisashvili was beaten by the police

Aleko Elisashvili, the leader of the “Citizens” party, reported that he was assaulted by police during a rally in front of the Government Chancellery on April 17. He shared this incident on “Formula” TV.

Elisashvili directly accuses Vazha Siradze, the head of the patrol police department, of orchestrating the attack. “Under Vazha Siradze’s orders, several policemen dragged me away. During this, I attempted to escape, and they struck me with batons. Subsequently, I was detained for a few hours at the Didubi department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where conditions were more humane. Later, I visited a clinic where it was discovered that one of my ribs had been broken,” Elisashvili explained, visibly injured on his face.

The incident was captured on video and broadcast by “Pirveli” TV, showing Elisashvili being forced into a police car.

This event followed an earlier altercation on April 15 at a meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee. During discussions about the Russian law, Elisashvili struck Mamuka Mdinaradze, a member of “Georgian Dream” and the majority leader. The opposition MP was then attacked by a group of MPs inside the committee hall, leading Elisashvili to exit the parliament building.

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