US imposes visa restrictions on dozens of Georgian officials, MPs, law enforcement, private citizens

The United States of America imposes visa restrictions on Georgian citizens, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller announced at a briefing.

According to him, the sanctions apply to dozens of individuals, including “Georgian Dream” parliament members, law enforcement representatives, and other citizens.

The sanctions were imposed due to actions undermining democracy and restricting freedom. According to the State Department spokesperson, if the situation in Georgia does not improve, these sanctions will be followed by additional measures.

“The US remains concerned about the anti-democratic actions of ‘Georgian Dream,’ as well as its recent statements and rhetoric. These actions risk derailing Georgia’s European future and go against the Georgian Constitution and the wishes of the Georgian people. We are imposing visa restrictions on dozens of Georgian citizens. This includes individuals, as well as their family members, responsible for or complicit in undermining Georgia’s democracy through actions such as suppressing the right to peaceful assembly and expression, attacking peaceful demonstrators, intimidating civil society representatives, and intentionally spreading disinformation at the behest of the Georgian government. This first tranche of visa restrictions includes members of the ‘Georgian Dream’ party, members of parliament, law enforcement officers, and private individuals,” said the State Department spokesperson, adding that there is still time for the Georgian government to change its course.

When asked about the names of those sanctioned, Matthew Miller said he could not disclose them.

“I cannot provide specific names. Visa data is confidential by law, but we investigated individuals who acted to spread misinformation, undermine democracy, attack peaceful demonstrators with violence, and intimidate civil society representatives,” he said.

The State Department spokesperson also noted that this is the first step taken by the US, and they are prepared to conduct a complete review of relations with the Georgian government in the future.

Reactions of government and opposition to the first tranche of US sanctions on Georgian individuals.

Representatives of the Georgian government and opposition parties have expressed their views on the US-imposed visa restrictions on members of the “Georgian Dream.”

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze commented, “Everything that is happening is not serious; it makes me smile. We have declared our policy that we protect the country’s interests. For some, the ability to travel is important, but for me, it doesn’t matter when it comes to the country and homeland.”

Minister of Culture Tea Tsulukiani remarked, “It can be safely said that this is another mistake by the United States of America in its relations with its strategic partner, unfortunately for both them and us. Perhaps this mistake will be followed by more mistakes, hopefully not, but the dynamics suggest that to me personally. It will further prolong the time needed for bilateral relations to recover. That’s why it’s a mistake.”

Badri Japaridze, a leader of the “Lelo – for Georgia” party, said, “These individuals were sanctioned because they betrayed the national interests of the country and acted not in the interests of the Georgian people but in the interests of the Russian authorities. They adopted a law that isolates the country from the Western world, against the will of 80% of the Georgian people, as it excludes the start of negotiations with the European Union.”

Levan Khabeishvili, Chairman of the “United National Movement,” stated, “Which investor will enter or stay in such a country?! Under Ivanishvili, economic collapse is inevitable! The malicious actions of Ivanishvili’s team affected the pockets of Georgian citizens. Thank you to the United States of America for supporting the Georgian people.”

Helsinki Commission’s congressional hearing on supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and democracy

On June 4, the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) held a congressional hearing on supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and democracy.

Speakers at the session included Vano Chkhikvadze, the manager of the European integration program of the “Civil Society Foundation”; Natali Sabanadze, the former ambassador of Georgia to the European Union; and William Courtney, the former ambassador of the United States to Georgia. They spoke about the current situation in Georgia.

“My country and my people are now at a crossroads. Georgia will either continue its quest to become part of a unified Europe, or it will once again become Russia’s backyard, as it was in the Soviet Union,” said Vano Chkhikvadze.

He emphasized that the Georgian people chose freedom and Europe, although the ruling “Georgian Dream” party did not understand them.

Natali Sabanadze, the former ambassador of Georgia to the European Union, said that the Georgian Dream regime “restores the stylistic guide and hunts traitorous agents inside the country and global enemies outside.”

“Democracy in today’s Georgia has been destroyed by the parliamentary majority. At the behest of one unaccountable man, the majority is changing the priorities of Georgia’s long-term foreign policy, destroying 30 years of friendship and partnership. The ruling party is breaking Georgia’s long-standing ‘dream’ of joining the European Union. As in an Orwellian dystopia, Georgians are told that friends are enemies who want war and destruction, and enemies who have occupied our territories are no longer a threat,” said Sabanadze.

According to Congressman Joe Wilson, co-chairman of the US Helsinki Commission, the Russian law is “only the tip of the iceberg” for the anti-democratic course of the “Georgian Dream.”

“What’s worse is that this ‘Foreign Agents Law’ seems to be only the tip of the iceberg of the government’s anti-democratic turn,” said Joe Wilson. He recalled other legislative changes adopted by the ruling party, which, he said, destroyed the independence of the CEC and undermined the judicial system, ultimately serving to consolidate power.

 

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