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US ‘deeply alarmed’ as thousands protest Georgia’s ‘foreign agent’ law

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US 'deeply alarmed' as thousands protest Georgia's 'foreign agent' law

Georgian opponents of the bill call it “the Russian law.”

Washington:

About 50,000 opponents of a “foreign agents” law marched peacefully in heavy rain through the Georgian capital on Saturday after the United States said the country had to choose between the “Kremlin-style” law and the country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. people.

“We are deeply troubled by the Democratic backsliding in Georgia,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan wrote on X.

“Georgian parliamentarians face a crucial choice: they will support the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Georgian people or adopt a Kremlin-style foreign agent law that is contrary to democratic values,” he said. “We stand with the Georgian people.”

The bill, which requires organizations that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “agents of foreign influence,” has sparked a rolling political crisis in Georgia, where thousands have taken to the streets to demand the bill is withdrawn. .

The crowd on Saturday waved Georgian, European and some Ukrainian flags. In a break with the past, there were older demonstrators as well as the many young people who took to the streets over the past month.

“The government should hear the free people of Georgia,” said a protester in her 30s who gave her name Nino, waved a large Georgian flag and led one of three columns that converged on the city center, capturing much of blocked the city’s roads. and filled the cobbled heart of Tbilisi’s Old Town.

“We want to enter the European Union with our proud nation and our dignity,” she said.

Anuki, a 22-year-old acting student, said it was her generation’s responsibility “to ensure that our future and the future of the generations after us are safe, that they have freedom of expression, and that they are basically free are.”

“And we don’t want to be part of Russia,” she added. “We never wanted to be part of Russia. And it has always been and always will be our goal to be part of Europe.”

Parliament, controlled by the ruling Georgian Dream party and its allies, will begin committee hearings on the bill’s third and final reading on Monday. Opposition groups had called for a new wave of protests from Saturday.

The crisis has pitted the ruling Georgian Dream party against a coalition of opposition parties, civil society, celebrities and the country’s figurehead president, with mass demonstrations occupying much of central Tbilisi virtually every night for more than a month. Closed.

Georgian opponents of the bill are calling it “Russia’s law,” comparing it to legislation used to attack critics of President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

The European Union, which granted Georgia candidate status in December, has said the bill would pose a serious obstacle to further integration if passed.

Georgian Dream says the bill will promote transparency and Georgian national sovereignty.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of Georgian Dream, has said the law is necessary to prevent the West from trying to use Georgians as “cannon fodder” in a confrontation with Russia.

Sullivan said Georgian Dream appears to be deliberately trying to break with the West, even though both the ruling party and Georgian public opinion have traditionally been in favor of the country joining the EU and the US-led NATO military alliance.

Sullivan wrote: “Georgian Dream’s recent rhetoric, proposed legal changes and actions go against the aspirations of the Georgian people and are intended to isolate Georgians from the United States and Europe.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)