Protesters rally as Georgia debates 'foreign agent' bill

Protesters rally as Georgia debates 'foreign agent' bill

PanARMENIAN.Net - Thousands of Georgians protested on Monday, April 15 and lawmakers came to blows as ruling party legislators gave the initial go-ahead for debate on a bill on "foreign agents" that has been criticised by Western and domestic critics as Russian-inspired, Reuters reports.

More than 5,000 demonstrators massed outside Georgia's parliament building, demanding the government withdraw the legislation requiring organisations that accept funds from abroad to register as foreign agents or face fines.

Georgian critics label the bill "the Russian law", comparing it to legislation used by the Kremlin to crack down on dissent.

Parliament's legal affairs committee, which is controlled by the ruling Georgian Dream party and its allies, endorsed the bill, clearing the way for it to be submitted for a first reading on Tuesday.

Protesters chanted "Russians! Russians!" at cordons of police securing approaches to the parliament, with water cannon deployed nearby.

Georgia's Interior Ministry said in a statement that 14 protesters had been detained for public order violations and one police officer had been treated for injuries.

Many protesters dispersed in the evening after activists urged them to return for Tuesday's parliamentary sitting.

President Salome Zourabichvili, a frequent critic of Georgian Dream, pledged support for the protesters on the X media platform, vowing "Georgia will not surrender to resovietisation!" The president's role is mainly ceremonial.

The Georgian Dream party, largely under the control of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, a former prime minister, said this month it would reintroduce the bill, 13 months after it was shelved due to protests.

Photo. Reuters
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