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Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law Live | Bill passes final reading

14 May 2024
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

The foreign agent law is set to go to its final reading at noon today, after protesters were beaten and arrested on Monday.

This article will be updated throughout the day. 

Read more:

15 May 2024, 01:22

We’re ending our coverage for this evening. Join us tomorrow for more on the fallout of Georgian Dream’s decision to pass the foreign agent law. 

You can read a summary of today’s events here.

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14 May 2024, 23:12

White House says law would ‘compel us to fundamentally reassess our relationship with Georgia’

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said that if the foreign agent law comes into force, it would ‘compel us to fundamentally reassess our relationship with Georgia’.

She said the US was ‘deeply troubled by Georgia’s Kremlin-style foreign agent law’, and praised the protests against the law, which she said were ‘some of the largest protests in Georgia’s history’.

 

14 May 2024, 22:40

Indigo journalist’s camera ‘confiscated by police’

Magazine Indigo has stated that one of their journalist’ GoPro cameras was confiscated by police while he was covering the protests.

Speaking to Netgazeti, Saba Sordia said that despite identifying himself as a journalist, the police did not return his camera.

Interference with a journalist’s professional activities is a criminal offence in Georgia.

14 May 2024, 22:34

Strategy Aghmashenebeli ‘always supported idea of unity’

The opposition Strategy Aghamashenebeli party has spoken in favour of an opposition coalition, stating they ‘support any initiative on unity, without preconditions and reservations’, local media reports.

‘Strategy Agmashenebeli has always supported and still supports the idea of unity’, the party said.

Strategy Aghmashenebeli was referring to the creation of a ‘European platform of national resistance’, as announced by Lelo leader Mamuka Khazaradz earlier today. 

The party is currently in coalition with the United National Movement (UNM).

14 May 2024, 22:29

Heroes Square blocked

The central Heroes Square has been closed by thousands of protesters. Several people were detained by police.

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

14 May 2024, 22:28

Kobakhidze thanks ruling party MPs

In a press conference this evening, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze thanked members of the parliamentary majority for remaining loyal to Georgia’s ‘national interests’ and once again advocated for the foreign agent law that they adopted earlier today. 

Like during his previous press conference, Kobakhidze cited a ‘sociological survey’ allegedly confirming that ‘over 60%’ of Georgians were in favour of the law.  

He noted that today’s adoption ‘creates solid guarantees for sustainable peace and calm in Georgia and for overcoming so-called “polarisation”, something which is a prerequisite for Georgia’s integration into the EU’. 

The EU and member countries have vehemently opposed the law.

14 May 2024, 21:49

O’Brien dismisses Georgian Dream conspiracy theories as ‘like a Reddit page came to life’

During his press conference, O’Brien said he was ‘disturbed’ to hear ‘two kinds of conversations’ from Georgian officials, one about the need for more transparency in Western funding in Georgia, and another about a conspiracy theory pushed by the ruling party and its founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili.

‘The law was a small part of a broader conversation’, he said, ‘and the broader conversation includes comments made by leaders of Georgian Dream that there is a global war party, and that Georgia must turn away from the commitments made to the global war party, and that there is a conspiracy by the West to remove GD from office — despite 12 years of strong cooperation’.

He mocked such conspiracy theories, saying: ‘this is like a Reddit page came to life’.

‘It is unreal, wrong, and a complete misunderstanding of the International community’s relationship with Georgia’, he added.

He cited one example of such conspiracy theories as Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze telling him Ivanishvili would not meet him because the US had him ‘under defacto sanctions’.

‘There are no sanctions on him, at this point’, he said.

‘For such an influential individual to be this badly misinformed is both shocking and disappointing.’

He added that for the Prime Minister to say this was to ‘elevate that individual’s interest above the country’s constitutional commitment’ to joining the EU and NATO.

He said this ‘captures’ what could be a ‘turning point’ in what said had until now been a ‘constructive and productive partnership’.

O’Brien also said that around $390 million in upcoming assistance to Georgia, half of it military, would be ‘under review if we are now regarded as an adversary and not a partner’.

He also criticised attacks and intimidation against government critics in recent days, calling for those responsible to be prosecuted.

He dismissed claims by Georgian officials that they were being blackmailed by the West, stating that as Georgia was trying to join the EU and NATO, it needed to meet their standards.

He also said that organisations targeted by the foreign agent law were the most transparent in the country, comparing them to groups he suggested received covert funding from non-Western countries.

14 May 2024, 21:07

O’Brien: US to apply sanctions ‘if the law goes forward’

US Assistant Secretary of State Jim O’Brien has said the US will apply travel restrictions and financial sanctions against individuals involved and their families if the foreign agent law ‘goes forward’ in its current form or if there is a continued ‘undermining of democracy or violence against peaceful protesters’

O’Brien was speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi after meeting with government officials and opposition figures earlier today.

14 May 2024, 20:37

UNM calls for opposition to ‘unite against this regime’

Levan Khabeishvili, the chair of the opposition United National Movement (UNM) party, has said he considers it important that ‘the entire opposition unites against this regime’.

‘We are obviously ready for all kinds of dialogue, all kinds of concessions, and we understand that we have a very difficult struggle ahead of us, which will not and cannot be an inter-party struggle’, IPN reported according to him.

Khabeishvili was referring to the creation of a ‘European platform of national resistance’, as announced by Lelo leader Mamuka Khazaradz earlier today.

14 May 2024, 20:23

Interior Ministry: 13 people detained

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has said they have detained 13 people so far during today’s demonstrations on charges of disobeying police and petty hooliganism.

14 May 2024, 20:21

Protests held in Kutaisi, Batumi, and Zugdidi 

Following the adoption of the foreign agents bill by the parliament today, protests renewed in the western Georgian cities of Kutaisi, Batumi, and Zugdidi

14 May 2024, 20:03

Poland: ‘stop the repression of NGOs and independent media’

The Polish Foreign Ministry have expressed ‘deep disappointment’ over the Georgian parliament’s adoption of the foreign agent law, noting that it ‘distances’ Georgia from the EU. 

The ministry also called on Georgian authorities to ‘stop the repression of NGOs and independent media’. 

14 May 2024, 20:02

Davit Katsarava hospitalised after arrest

Davit Katsarava, a prominent nationalist activist, has been hospitalised after being arrested during the protests.

Images shared from his hospital bed showed Katsarava bloodied and beaten.

14 May 2024, 19:35

Student groups march towards parliament

Student groups are marching towards Georgia's parliament to join protesters against the foreign agent law, which passed its final hearing today.
Students beginning a march by Rustaveli metro. Photo: Dominik Cagara/OC Media

14 May 2024, 19:21

Gakharia ‘in communication’ with president over possible opposition platform 

The leader of the opposition For Georgia party, Giorgi Gakharia, has suggested his party is already in communication with President Salome Zourabichvili about a joint opposition platform.

Gakharia told TV Pirveli that his party did not rule out any measures to oppose the government and the foreign agent law, including a possible boycott of parliament.

Gakharia served as Interior Minister and Prime Minister under Georgian Dream, before resigning in 2021 over the party’s insistence on arresting opposition leader Nika Melia.

14 May 2024, 19:01

Police withdraw from parliament

Police have withdrawn from in front of Georgia's parliament, with protesters moving back towards the building.

14 May 2024, 18:52

Lelo calls for ‘European platform of national resistance’ with President Zourabichvili

The leader of the opposition party, Mamuka Khazaradze, has called for the creation of a ‘European platform of national resistance’, local media has reported. He said ‘close coordination with President Salome Zourabichvili’ would be important in this process.

Khazaradze also announced a ‘moratorium’ on criticising other opposition parties, and called for others to do the same.

President Zourabichvili has previously called for such a platform for upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for October. 

14 May 2024, 18:50

UN Georgia ‘regrets the adoption’ of foreign agent law

The United Nations in Georgia has stated that the foreign agent law ‘may disrupt critical social services rendered by civil society among other risks’. 

The statement also called for ‘an impartial investigation of incidents of violence and intimidation during and after the protests’.

14 May 2024, 18:00

Opposition groups announce boycott of parliament

The United National Movement (UNM), Strategy Aghmashenebeli, and Lelo, have announced that they were boycotting parliamentary sessions in response to the law’s passing.

‘We, the [UNM] faction and the majority of the opposition are not going to continue our normal activities in this mode, we are going into boycott mode! In the near future, together with representatives of both the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, we will introduce the final plan to the public, of how we intend to carry out our next political activities under the conditions of this Russian regime’, said UNM MP Levan Bezhashvili.

At least three independent MPs, Tamar Kordzaia, Salome Samadashvili, and Tariel Nakaidze, have also announced their intent to boycott the parliament.

14 May 2024, 17:59

IPN journalist reportedly assaulted by police

IPN has reported that their photojournalist, Giorgi Zhamerashvili, was physically assaulted by the police while he was covering the protest. 

14 May 2024, 17:52

Lazare Grigoriadis confirmed to have been detained

Lazare Grigoriadis’ mother, Tamta Kalandadze, has confirmed that her son was detained during the protest in front of parliament.

14 May 2024, 17:33

EU Parliament President: Tbilisi, we hear you! We see you!

The EU Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola has expressed support for protesters against the foreign agent law.

14 May 2024, 17:30

Interior Ministry: the protest has violated the law of assembly and has become violent

The Interior Ministry has said that ‘special measures’ have been deployed after protesters damaged a barricade in front of parliament. 

They urged protesters to obey the police and to not ‘artificially escalate’ the situation.

Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili had earlier raised the security level of the parliament to red, barring any non-approved persons from entering the premises.

14 May 2024, 17:29

Standoff on Rustaveli Avenue as protesters attempt to barricade road

A group of protesters are now attempting to set up a barricade in front of parliament, facing hundreds of riot police who have moved towards the protesters from Freedom Square.

14 May 2024, 17:21

Lazare Grigoriadis reportedly detained again

Foreign agent protester Lazare Grigoriadis has reportedly been detained, less than a month after being pardoned by President Salome Zourabichvili of charges relating to his participation in last year's foreign agent protests.

Grigoriadis embracing family and friends on his release from prison last month. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media

14 May 2024, 17:19

Riot police move in on protesters around parliament as protest declared ‘illegal’

This after protesters broke a barrier at the front of parliament.

Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili has raised parliament’s threat level to red, barring anyone from entering the building’s premises without the parliamentary administration’s approval.

14 May 2024, 16:41

Riot police mobilise on Freedom Square

Riot police with water cannons and a sonic cannon have mobilised on Freedom Square, down the street from the parliament building where protesters remain.

Photo: Anna Edgar/OC Media.

 

 

14 May 2024, 16:40

Police detain several protesters throughout the day

Several protesters have already been detained throughout today’s protest against the foreign agent law. 

The Interior Ministry has yet to issue a statement confirming the number of protesters detained.

14 May 2024, 16:39

President Zourabichvili expected to veto the bill

President Salome Zourabichvili has repeatedly vowed to veto the draft law if approved by parliament. She has two weeks from the date of submission to her office to do so.

If rejected, parliament can finally override her veto and adopt the law with a simple majority, and it would then enter into force 15 days later.

14 May 2024, 16:19

Protesters attempting to break into parliament

Some protesters against Georgia’s foreign agent law are attempting to break the barriers around parliament, with anger rising after the law’s passing in its final reading.

14 May 2024, 16:04

Riot police gather in parliament as people protest law’s passing

Riot police are mobilising inside parliament, as protesters bang on and climb the barriers around the building after the foreign agent law was passed in its final hearing.

14 May 2024, 15:52

Foreign agent law passes final reading

The foreign agent law has passed its third and final hearing in parliament with 84 votes for it, and 30 against.

The law will now be passed to President Salome Zourabichvili, who has promised to veto it. Parliament is expected to overrule her veto. 

 

14 May 2024, 15:50

German Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee chair: the Georgian government refused to meet us

Michael Roth, chair of the German Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, has said that the government refused to meet him and his Lithuanian, Polish, Czech, and Finnish counterparts. 

Roth added that they were only able to meet with Nikolos Samkharadze, the chair of the Georgian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, at the ruling Georgian Dream’s headquarters in Tbilisi.

14 May 2024, 15:39

Kremlin praises Georgian government 

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov today praised the Georgian government, reportedly noting the strong desire of the Georgian leadership to insure their country against overt interference in its internal affairs. 

According to Russian state-run agency RIA, Peskov also condemned rumoured international sanctions on Georgian Dream leadership as an ‘undisguised interference in Georgia's internal affairs’. 

Last month, Peskov praised the Georgian bill on two occasions. Members of the ruling Georgian Dream party have repeatedly claimed that the bill is modelled on European and American legislation, and does not resemble Russia’s foreign agent law, despite substantial evidence to the contrary. 

14 May 2024, 15:23

Culture march begins

A march by people working in culture has begun, temporarily blocking one of the major streets towards Liberty Square. Protesters carry a banner reading ‘The river of people from the heart of the country will not stop’.

Protesters blocking Pushkin Street. Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media

14 May 2024, 15:04

Dean fired for ‘criticising Ivanishvili’

The former Dean of the Caucasus University School of Economics, Soso Berikashvili, has written that he was fired in April at the request of the State Security Service.

Berikashvili said they had accused him of ‘swearing’ towards Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili. ‘I just severely criticised him because of the offshore law’, he added. Berikashvili did not clarify in what context the criticism was made.

[Read more: Georgian Dream eliminates taxes on offshore assets brought to Georgia]

Berikashvili added that he was officially dismissed from his job on 7 May ‘under the pretext of reorganisation’.

14 May 2024, 14:53

UK Defence Minister decries ‘Russian interference’ in Georgia

UK Defence Minister Grant Shapps has labelled the foreign agent bill an act of ‘Russian interference in Georgia’.

‘We very much encourage people to resist that influence from Russia’, he added, in an interview with Britain's Sky News.

It comes two days after Britain’s Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, called the bill ‘wrong’, warning that there was an ‘axis of authoritarian regimes’ across the globe with similar legislation.

14 May 2024, 14:47

Public Defender urges Georgian Dream to abstain from voting on the bill ‘in its current form’

Georgia’s Public Defender Levan Ioseliani has called on the parliamentary majority to abstain from voting for the foreign agent bill in its current form. He reiterated his earlier recommendation to amend either the draft law, or existing legislation governing foreign financing. 

Ioseliani underlined in his statement that ‘all laws enacted by the parliament of Georgia should be in line with our European aspirations instead of harming relations with [Georgia’s] partners and our country’s European integration’.

14 May 2024, 14:13

Opposition MP Motserelia: Even Abkhazia refused to adopt this law

For Georgia’s Aleksandre Motserelia has urged the ruling party to reconsider voting for the foreign agent law, arguing that Abkhazia had refused to adopt a similar bill.

‘Even they did better than us […] What is happening? While they still felt responsible enough to reject it, we will implement it’, remarked Motserelia.

‘The Russian law will not bring us anything good’. 

Abkhazia’s Parliament has yet to begin discussing the foreign agent bill submitted by the Presidential Administration in February. However, the initiative was met with criticism from Abkhazian opposition and civil society figures, with several of them expressing support for Georgia’s foreign agent law protesters.

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

14 May 2024, 13:53

Georgian Dream MP attacks opposition members

A heated argument between ruling party and opposition MPs was followed by a physical and verbal altercation in which Georgian Dream MP Dimitry Samkharadze attempted to attack opposition lawmakers. Samkharadze cursed at members of the opposition and spat in their direction after the chair of the opposition United National Movement party, Levan Khabeishvili, accused him of organising physical attacks on opposition figures, activists, and other government critics in recent days. 

14 May 2024, 13:31

Amnesty International: the Georgian government must urgently reject this repressive legislation

Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Marie Struthers criticised yesterday the draft foreign agent law as ‘repressive’ and called on the Georgian government to ‘urgently reject’ it.

‘As the Georgian authorities push through this harmful legislation, they have openly endorsed the repression of human rights and civil society, which has escalated to alarming levels in recent days’.

‘The way this bill has been passed — with political opponents silenced by legal procedures in the corridors of power, as protestors were mercilessly beaten and arrested outside amid a police crackdown — demonstrates the harmful impact of this legislation, which clearly takes aim at human rights’, she said, adding that ‘all those suspected of responsibility for human rights violations, including police officers who resorted to unlawful use of force, must be brought to justice, up to the highest level of the chain of command’.

14 May 2024, 13:26

University rectors against strikes

Rectors from 38 Georgian universities, including both state and private institutions, have issued a joint statement condemning the decision of lecturers to go on strike in protest against the draft foreign agent law. 

‘The fundamental basis of our European future is the education of young people in a free and non-discriminatory environment’, the statement read. ‘Therefore, we believe that any political process should remain outside the academic space’.

Students and lecturers from around thirty universities in Georgia are on strike in protest against the draft foreign agent law. 

14 May 2024, 12:51

Students march against the foreign agent bill in Batumi

University and high school students in Batumi are marching through the west Georgian city in protest against the foreign agent law, and are being greeted with waves and cheers from onlookers and students at other institutions.

Video: Batumelebi

14 May 2024, 12:38

Rustaveli Avenue blocked as student protesters join

Tbilisi’s central Rustaveli Avenue has been blocked, shortly after student marches joined the protesters near the parliament. On Sunday and Monday, groups from tens of Georgian universities declared that they would cease to attend lectures in protest against the draft foreign agent law.

14 May 2024, 11:51

Freedom House: violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable

American rights group Freedom House has expressed support to protesters against the reintroduced draft foreign agent law in Georgia and condemned ‘the ongoing repression and violence against peaceful protesters’.

14 May 2024, 11:47

US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in Georgia

James O’Brien, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, has arrived in Georgia on an official visit. He will today meet with representatives of Georgia’s political opposition, civil society organisations, and government, although specific individuals have not been named. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze claimed that Bidzina Ivanishvili, the honorary chair and billionaire founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, had refused an offer to meet O'Brien. 

Kobakhidze claimed that Ivanishvili had refused the offer because he ‘cannot hold any meeting under blackmail’.  The Georgian prime minister reiterated his party’s claim that Ivanishvili remained ‘de facto’ internationally sanctioned, a reference to his apparent loss of access to some of his assets abroad.

An earlier version of this update incorrectly described James O'Brien as the Head of Sanctions Coordination. O'Brien previously served as Sanctions Coordinator at the US State Department, but left that role in October 2023. 

14 May 2024, 11:32

Opposition MPs hang EU and Georgian flags from parliament

Opposition MPs have hung EU and Georgian flags from a window of the parliament building in solidarity with protesters against the draft foreign agent law, and were met with cheers and applause from the crowd of demonstrators.

14 May 2024, 11:07

Security forces readied on Liberty Square

Riot police buses, water cannons, and police are gathered on Liberty Square, an hour before the foreign agent law is set to go to its final vote in parliament. Police have blocked protesters from accessing the back entrance of parliament.

Police blocking protesters behind parliament. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media
Protesters blocked by police behind parliament. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media
Security vehicles on Liberty Square. Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media

14 May 2024, 10:00

Key events from yesterday

  • Several thousand protesters remained outside parliament overnight, but were pushed back by police early in the morning before MPs arrived. Police arrested at least 20 people, punching and kicking them and others as they did.
  • The bill passed its hearing in the legal affairs committee in just over a minute, with opposition MPs prevented from attending.
  • Students from a number of Georgia’s largest universities walked out of lectures to join street protests against the bill.
  • In a press conference, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze vowed to pass the bill today. He went on to say Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili would not meet with foreign diplomats or leaders until he regained control of money he lost to a fraudster working at Credit Suisse. He said that Ivanishvili had ‘trusted’ $2 billion to the West and that the money had ended up with the ‘Global War Party’, a term used by Ivanishvili and other officials to reference a secret group they claim controls the US and the EU. 
  • Following a meeting with opposition groups in Tbilisi, Michael Roth, the chair of Bundestag’s foreign relations committee, appeared to rule out the possibility of the EU beginning accession negotiations with Georgia if the foreign agent bill was passed.