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Georgian Parliament Approves Pro-Russian 'Foreign Agents' Law Amid Mass Protests

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Photo: Georgian Parliament Approves Pro-Russian 'Foreign Agents' Law Amid Mass Protests. Source: Getty Images
Photo: Georgian Parliament Approves Pro-Russian 'Foreign Agents' Law Amid Mass Protests. Source: Getty Images

Georgia's parliament has passed a controversial bill on "foreign influence" despite widespread protests against the text of the law, which is modelled on Russian law and would steer the Caucasus country away from Europe and towards Moscow.

Before the vote on the draft law on "foreign agents" in the Georgian parliament, a fight broke out between members of the majority and opposition. Similar fights have already occurred in recent weeks.

During the third and final reading, MPs voted 84 in favour and 30 against, according to footage broadcast on public television.

Critics have dubbed the text a "Russian law" because of its similarities to laws passed in Russia to suppress opposition. 

The reference is particularly sensitive in Georgia, a country that oscillates between Russian and European spheres of influence and was invaded by Moscow during its military intervention in 2008.

While police have used rubber bullets and tear gas during some rallies, now that the "foreign agents" bill has been passed into law, protesters are being attacked by riot police.

Participants of the mass protests call the draft law on "foreign agents" an act of repression inspired by the Kremlin.

So far, several demonstrators have been treated by medics after police fired tear gas at the crowd of several thousand people, while police units dragged some people away.

Violence spilled into the chamber, where a dozen MPs fought and one MP from the ruling Georgian Dream party was restrained by security guards when he leaned sharply on the head of the main opposition, Levan Khabeshvili.

Under the new pro-Russian legislation, media outlets or civil society groups in Georgia that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad will have to register as "organisations serving the interests of a foreign state".

In 2023, mass demonstrations forced the ruling Georgian Dream party to abandon the first version of this text. But this time, despite more than a month of protests, the majoritarian party ignored it.

Shortly before the vote, an EU spokesperson confirmed that the adoption of this text would be a "serious obstacle" to the country's path to EU membership.

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