March 25, 2023

Georgia protests continue even after government withdraws controversial bill | world

Demonstrators in front of the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi on March 9, 2023. – Photo: Reuters – Irakli Gednidze

And the protest movement continues in Georgia, despite the government’s promise to withdraw the bill that sparked the protest. Thousands demonstrated again on Thursday evening (9) in front of the parliament in Tbilisi.

The bill stipulated that non-governmental organizations and means of communication be classified as “foreign agents”, which receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign countries or organizations. The opposition in the country accuses the text of being inspired by a law used by Russia to suppress opponents of the Kremlin regime.

On Friday (10), the protesters interviewed by RFI were proud that they had made the government surrender. They are now calling for the release of 133 people who were arrested after the demonstrations on Tuesday and Wednesday. The goal is to keep pressure on the ruling party, the Georgian dream.

On Thursday evening, parliament officially started the procedures for withdrawing the “foreign agents” law. But the protesters do not trust the government, which has broken its promises in the past.

Georgian deputies rejected the bill during a session in parliament: 35 out of 36 voted to withdraw the text in the second reading.

An anti-Russian hand

The Kremlin and Russian diplomacy said on Friday that the “anti-Russian” hand of the West was behind Georgia’s protests and said the events were an attempted coup.

The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, said in an interview with Russian television that the demonstrations are similar to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, known as Maidan, which Moscow considers a Western coup.

“It is clear that the events in Georgia are being organized from abroad,” he said, referring to European countries and the United States, believing that “the intention is to create a revolution on the Russian borders.”

The Kremlin had earlier said it saw a US “hand” behind the Georgian protesters’ “anti-Russian sentiment” because Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who supports the protests, was in the US at the time.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said she was “addressing her people not from Georgia, but from America”.

European aspirations

In addition to this law, many Georgians are wary of seeing their government move away from its pro-European aspirations and fear rapprochement with Russia.

The tiny country in the Caucasus, with a population of just four million, still bears the marks of the war Russia lost in 2008.

A Kremlin spokesman confirmed on Friday that Russia had “nothing to do” with the controversial bill, adding that Moscow “does not interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs.”

Russia sponsors two breakaway regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which it recognized as independent after the 2008 war.