Georgia | Pro-EU protesters erect barricades in front of Parliament

(Tbilisi) Georgian demonstrators, who are protesting in their thousands against a controversial bill, erected barricades in front of Parliament on Wednesday morning in the capital Tbilisi after being fired with tear gas and rubber bullets from the police, noted an AFP journalist.

The Caucasus country has been gripped by massive anti-government protests since April 9, after the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced a bill on “foreign influence” deemed contrary to Tbilisi’s aspirations to join the European Union (EU).

Masked riot police intervened Tuesday evening, without warning, using tear gas and rubber bullets, beating and arresting dozens of people, according to an AFP journalist on the scene.

Several journalists were attacked, including an AFP photographer who was beaten with a rubber baton, although clearly identified as a media professional.


Masked riot police intervened, including using tear gas.

MP Levan Khabeishvili, president of imprisoned ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement, the main opposition party, was violently beaten and had to receive treatment.

Local television channels broadcast images showing his face marked with beatings.

“I call on the Minister of the Interior to immediately end the repression of peaceful assembly, the use of disproportionate force and violence against young people,” said Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili. which is opposed to the ruling party.

Georgian Rights Defender Levan Iosseliani called for an investigation into the use of “disproportionate force” against protesters and journalists.

The police intervened to respond “to demonstrators who began a verbal and physical confrontation with the police,” said the Interior Ministry.

The protesters gathered in front of Parliament demonstrated against the bill on “foreign influence”, considered repressive, until after midnight despite the water cannons and tear gas.

They blocked traffic in front of the Parliament on Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main artery, as well as on several other important roads in the city.

Early Wednesday morning, protesters set up barricades in front of the Parliament building after riot police left.


“They are afraid because they see our determination,” said a 21-year-old demonstrator, Natia Gabissonia, in front of Parliament on Tuesday evening.

“We will not let them pass this Russian law and bury our European future,” she added.

Second reading

Georgian MPs debated on Tuesday the second reading of the bill that the ruling party hopes to pass by mid-May.

The bill must undergo three readings in Parliament and be ratified by the presidency. The Georgian president is expected to veto, but the ruling party has enough seats in parliament to override it.

According to its critics, the project is inspired by the Russian law on “foreign agents” used to stifle dissenting voices.

The President of the European Council Charles Michel considered that the text was not compatible with Georgia’s wish to become a member of the EU.

Protests also took place in Georgia’s second city, Batumi, and Kutaisi, according to independent media Formula TV.

On Monday, several thousand people took part in a counter-demonstration organized in front of Parliament by the Georgian Dream.

Powerful billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, chairman of the ruling party and considered the country’s de facto leader, addressed the crowd on Monday. He defended the bill aimed, according to him, at strengthening transparency on foreign financing of associations, believing that “the non-transparent financing of NGOs is the main instrument for the appointment of a Georgian government from abroad”.

In the spring of 2023, the ruling party had to abandon a first attempt to pass the law, after massive protests.

Several Georgian governments have sought to bring the country closer to the West, but the current ruling party has been accused of wanting to bring the former Soviet republic back into Russia’s orbit.

In December, the EU granted the country official candidate status for membership of the Union, while warning it must reform before any negotiations.

Georgia’s candidacy for membership in the EU and NATO is enshrined in its Constitution and, according to polls, widely supported by the population.


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