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Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law Live | Parliament overturns veto

28 May 2024
Protesters behind the parliament building on Tuesday morning. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media

The parliamentary majority is expected to overturn the presidential veto of the foreign agent law, passing it after almost two months of mass protests. 

Read more:

29 May 2024, 00:35

We’re ending our coverage for today. You can read a summary of today’s events here.

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28 May 2024, 23:48

Group of NGOs to disobey law

According to Publika, a group of non-governmental groups have released a joint statement vowing to ‘disobey the Russian [foreign agent] law’ and continue protesting against it until its repealed.

‘The Russian law will not work in our country! It will remain a scrap of paper that no one will obey!’, the statement read.

28 May 2024, 22:57

EU ‘considering all options’

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU is ‘considering all options and urge the government to recommit to the EU aspirations’.

28 May 2024, 22:55

Swedish Foreign Minister: law will have ‘consequences’

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström has warned that the law’s passage will have ‘consequences’.

‘As the law is incompatible with EU norms and values, the decision will have consequences for EU-Georgia relations’.

28 May 2024, 22:54

UK ‘deeply concerned’

The UK Embassy in Georgia has said it is ‘deeply concerned’ by the law’s passage.

‘We remain of the view that the law represents a backwards step that will actively harm Georgia’s efforts to integrate with Euro-Atlantic institutions’, their statement read.

28 May 2024, 22:53

Protest announced for 2 June

Protest organisers have announced a concert and demonstration on 2 June at 20:00 to raise money for those who have been fined during the protests. 

28 May 2024, 22:49

Demonstrators march to Georgian Dream office

Hundreds of protesters are marching towards the Georgian Dream offices.

28 May 2024, 22:41

Charles Michel: a ‘step backward’

European Council President Charles Michel has said he will add Georgia to the agenda of the next European Council meeting.

28 May 2024, 22:27

US State Department condemns law

Opening his daily press briefing, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller reiterated that the US ‘condemns’ the law.

‘The Georgian Dream has disregarded the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission legal assessment and that of Georgia’s closest partners, who have made clear the law would stigmatise civil society and media and limit fundamental freedoms’, he said.

‘In passing this law the ruling Georgian Dream party moved the country farther away from the European integration path, ignored the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Georgian people, who have taken to the streets for weeks to oppose this law.’

‘The ruling party’s actions and anti-Western rhetoric threaten Georgia’s democratic trajectory, future economic security, EU membership, and also put the US–Georgia relationship at risk’, he said.

Asked if the US would impose further sanctions as a result, he reiterated last week’s announcement of visa restrictions against individuals found to be undermining democracy as well as a reexamination of US financial assistance to the country.

28 May 2024, 21:56

Norwegian Foreign Ministry: Georgian Government has sent a ‘clear signal’ 

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry has said the Georgian Government has sent a ‘clear signal’ that ‘EU integration [is] not a key priority for the [government]’.

‘We hope to see Georgia join the European family of independent democracies and stand by the Georgian people in their wish for a European future for their country’, they wrote

28 May 2024, 21:54

Georgian Dream MP throws orange at protester

Opposition leader Nika Melia has posted a video on Facebook of Georgian Dream MP Viktor Japaridze throwing an orange at a protester.

The footage shows the man swearing at the cars of Georgian Dream MPs, purportedly after they approved the law.

Japaridze is then seen getting out of one of the cars, stealing an orange from a nearby shop, and throwing it at the man.

28 May 2024, 21:38

President addresses protest 

President Salome Zourabichvili has addressed protesters via video link. She called the 84 MPs who voted for the law  ‘Orjonikidzes’, a reference to Georgia-born Bolshevik Sergo Orjonikidze, commonly portrayed as a traitor to Georgia. 

‘They pushed the button [to vote] and sent their names to a specific page of history’, she said.

Zourabichvili told people to prepare for 26 October’s parliamentary elections, which she has labelled a ‘referendum’ on Georgia’s future.

‘You are angry today, aren’t you? Get angry, but let’s get to work. The work is that we have to prepare, first of all, for a true referendum’, she said

‘Do we want a European future or Russian slavery?  Eighty-four men cannot decide this; we can. We, all together’, she said. 

She appealed to the ‘half a million’ young people as well as Georgians outside the country to turn out to vote.

These together, she insisted, ‘is something that will decide the elections on 26 October’.

28 May 2024, 21:07

Mdinaradze thanks Georgian people

Georgia Deam’s parliamentary leader, Mamuka Mdinaradze, has posted on Facebook thanking his ‘colleagues and what’s most important, the Georgian people’.

‘Perhaps years ago, no one could have imagined that Georgia would be able to make an independent decision despite the opposition of this scale!’ he claimed.

‘Everyone should understand how proud of a country and people they are dealing with, who no one should ever try to deceive or rule by agent forces!’, he said.

28 May 2024, 20:57

Karasin praises Georgian Dream

Russian Senator and head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Grigoriy Karasin, praised Georgian Dream for adopting the law.

‘By overcoming Zourabichvili’s veto on the [foreign agent law] the Georgian parliament showed character and maturity!’, he said.

28 May 2024, 20:45

Kobakhidze remains defiant

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has held a press briefing in which he thanked MPs who voted for the foreign agent law.

He claimed that ‘more than 80% of the population’ supported ‘the transparency of foreign influence’, while 60% supported the law despite ‘criticism from foreigners’.

‘I would like to remind you that the law [foreign agent law] provides only one thing – the publication of financial declarations by organisations carrying the interests of a foreign power once a year. It is impossible to have any argument against such a law’, he said.

The law requires such organisations to register as ‘organisations carrying out the interests of a foreign power’, allows the Ministry of Justice to demand access to any information, personal or otherwise from such organisations as well as individuals associated with them, and imposes harsh fines on organisations and individuals who fail to comply.

Kobakhidze dismissed Western criticism of the law.

‘Attempts to blackmail the Georgian people and the government elected by the Georgian people with sanctions or any similar measures are not serious’, he said.

‘No one can punish the Georgian people and no one can punish the government elected by the Georgian people. We have strong positions on everything. We serve this society, the interests of the country’, he said.

28 May 2024, 20:19

EU ‘deeply regrets’ adoption of law

The EU has put out a statement saying it ‘deeply regrets’ parliament’s decision to override the president’s veto.

‘The EU has stressed repeatedly that the law […] goes against EU core principles and values’, they said.

They added that the law went against at least three of the nine steps the EU laid out for Georgia to progress on its membership bid.

‘Beyond the law on transparency of foreign influence, there has been so far insufficient political attention mobilised to progress substantially on the nine steps’, they added, urging the government to reverse course and abolish the law.

‘The EU and its Member States are considering all options to react to these developments’, they said.

‘We continue to stand with the Georgian people and recognise the choice of overwhelming majority of them for a European future for their country.’

28 May 2024, 20:08

Riot police mobilise on Freedom Square

Several busloads of riot police with water cannons have mobilised on Freedom Square, down the street from the protest outside parliament.

Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media.
Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

28 May 2024, 19:25

Interior Ministry calls on protesters to allow MPs to leave

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has demanded that protesters give ‘MPs and employees of the Parliament’s office in the building’ the opportunity to leave the building without interruption and to continue protesting peacefully.

28 May 2024, 19:10

Papuashvili: no other power determines the life of our state and our people

Following the vote, the speaker of parliament Shalva Papuashvili, who returned shortly before, praised MPs for adopting the law, calling it an important decision.

‘Mr Anri [Okhanashvili, chair of the Legal Affairs Committee], read aloud the oath of members of the parliament, and this oath carries in it our primary obligation to care for the interests of the Georgian people and act in the interest and with the mandate of the Georgian people’, he said.

‘No other people, no other country, no other power determines the life of our state and our people, and that’s exactly what this law is about, so thank you very much for that’, he said.

28 May 2024, 18:59

MPs overturn veto

MPs from the ruling Georgian Dream party have overturned the President’s veto of the controversial foreign agent bill, passing it into law. 

The law will come into force in 60 days from today.

28 May 2024, 18:44

Georgian Dream MP throws water at Vashadze

Irma Zavradashvili, a Georgian Dream MP, has thrown water into the face of opposition MP Giorgi Vashadze as he was addressing parliament.

28 May 2024, 18:40

Papuashvili leaves parliament

Speaker of parliament Shalva Papuashvili has reportedly left the building ahead of the planned vote to overturn the veto. Vice-Speaker Giorgi Kakhiani is now leading the plenary session in his place.

28 May 2024, 18:18

GYLA: Department of Special Tasks Head statement ‘alarming’

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) has called comments made by the head of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Special Tasks ‘alarming’.

‘It is alarming that a senior Interior Ministry official with an important policing role is publicly issuing threats of violent practices’, their statement read. ‘This, of course, has the effect of encouraging violence on the part of law enforcement officers’, they wrote.

Kharazishvili was responding to a question by TV Pirveli, who asked if he was going to beat up young people today.

‘I don't beat up young people, I beat up scum. Here we have a list, I will show you in a little while’, he said.

According to GYLA, Kharazishvili’s comment once again ‘makes it clear that the government is deliberately using illegal and violent methods to suppress the ongoing peaceful protest’.

GYLA called on the Interior Ministry not to use violence and to protect people, and the organisation called upon police officers not to follow illegal orders. 

They also requested an investigation into Kharazishvili’s comments and for him to be summoned for questioning.

28 May 2024, 18:00

Former Supreme Court judge ‘told he would be killed’ if he didn’t rule according to the government

A former Supreme Court judge, Besarion Alavidze, has told TV Pirveli that in a previous case he was told he would be killed if he did not rule according to the government’s wishes.

‘I received a message from one of the chairpersons of the Supreme Court telling me if I did not make the desired decision in one high-profile case […] which was needed by Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and the current government, I would be [killed]’, he said. He added that he was threatened several times including to prevent him from speaking to journalists.

He didn’t specify when or by who he was threatened.

28 May 2024, 16:02

Opposition MP calls for suspension of Special Tasks Department head

Opposition MP Tamar Kordzaia has called on the MPs to appeal to the government to suspend Zviad ‘Khareba’ Kharazishvili, the head of the Department of Special Tasks of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, until an investigation is concluded.

28 May 2024, 16:01

Protesters fined for blocking roads

At least five more people were fined ₾500 ($185) by Tbilisi City Court today for illegally blocking a road during protests against the foreign agent law, local media has reported. This is the maximum fine for blocking roads.

28 May 2024, 15:57

Visa-free regime with China comes into effect

As MPs are discussing the president’s veto in parliament, Georgian Dream’s official Facebook page posted hailing the beginning of visa-free travel to China. 

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze announced the visa liberalisation agreement in in late February, with Economy Minister Levan Davitashvili stating that China would instate the visa-free regime ‘in a matter of days’.

Georgian–Chinese relations have been steadily warming in recent years, with Tbilisi courting Chinese investment in several Georgian projects, including the troubled Anaklia Deep Sea Port project.

28 May 2024, 15:07

Special Tasks Department head: ‘I beat up scum; we have a list’ 

The Director of the Interior Ministry’s Special Tasks Department, Zviad ‘Khareba’ Kharazishvili, has admitted to beating up ‘scum’ (‘arakatsebs’ in Georgian).

Kharazishvili was responding to a question by TV Pirveli, who asked if he was going to beat up young people today.

‘I don't beat up young people, I beat up scum. Here we have a list, I will show you in a little while’, he said.

28 May 2024, 14:20

Mtavari Arkhi: MPs met with Ivanishvili to ask for ‘guarantees’

According to the pro-opposition TV channel Mtavari Arkhi, a group of MPs with business interests met with Bidzina Ivanishvili to ask for guarantees that their business activities would not be affected by the adoption of the foreign agent law.  The channel did not specify which MPs they meant.

Several Georgian Dream MPs asked by journalists about the alleged meeting denied taking part or declined to comment.

‘According to our information, the oligarch told the millionaire MPs, who are afraid of sanctions, that they will have to ride it out for a while, until January, and then concrete decisions will be made’, Mtavari Arkhi reported.

28 May 2024, 13:48

Borrell: EU will discuss response in June

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has again said that the forigne agent law ‘is not in line with EU values’. 

‘If the law is enacted, it will impact Georgia’s EU path’, he said.

‘We’ll discuss EU response and take decision at the June [Foreign Affairs Council]. October elections will be a test for Georgia’s commitment to its EU future’, he added.

28 May 2024, 13:44

European parliamentary speakers: withdraw the foreign agent law

The parliamentary speakers of seven EU member states — the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France, the Netherlands, and Poland — yesterday called on the Georgian parliament to withdraw the foreign agent law.

In a letter addressed to Georgia’s parliamentary speaker, Shalva Papuashvili, the officials wrote that ‘recent decisions by Georgia are a matter of concern’, and that government actions ‘run contrary to those values and principles you have committed to be guided by and that are at the core of your European aspirations’.

‘We urge you to withdraw this law and engage in a meaningful and inclusive dialogue with organised civil society and citizens’, the letter read, adding that the law was incompatible with European norms and values, and threatened to ‘silence media and civil society organisations’. 

‘We also urge you to respect the fundamental values by upholding the right of people to assembly and discontinue the use of violence and intimidation against the peaceful demonstrators’.

28 May 2024, 13:34

Riot police inside the Parliament

MP Khatia Dekanoidze from the parliamentary Europtimists group has posted images online showing riot police inside the halls of parliament and in its yeard, while the plenary session takes place. 

‘The corridors of the Parliament are full of masked men and [State Security Service members]’, she said.

28 May 2024, 13:18

Speaker accuses opposition MP of necrophilia

The Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, has accused UNM MP Tina Bokuchava of being ‘necrophilic’. 

Bokuchava had spoken about Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili being in the ‘political grave’ and told ruling party MPs that it was up to them if they wanted to follow him there.

Papuashvili responded that ‘it was too necrophilic a speech, I think’.

28 May 2024, 12:26

Thousands gather behind parliament

Thousands have gathered behind Georgia’s parliament to protest the foreign agent law, which is being discussed in a plenary session. The parliamentary majority is expected to overturn President Salome Zourabichvili’s veto of the law, marking its final adoption. 

Protests are planned throughout the day.

28 May 2024, 12:03

Key events from yesterday

  • Parliament’s legal committee recommended that the parliament overturn President Salome Zourabichvili’s veto of the foreign agent law. 
  • Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili reiterated that the parliament would ‘definitely overcome the veto’ in today’s plenary session. 
  • Online media journalists and visitors have been banned from parliament indefinitely, after Papuashvili signed an order raising parliament’s security level indefinitely. 
  • Papuashvili also accused President Salome Zourabichvili of forming a ‘War Charter’ that brought together Georgia’s ‘war parties’, in reference to her initiative to form a temporary opposition government after October’s elections, with the aim of carrying out reforms. A number of opposition parties have pledged to join the President’s initiative. 
  • A number of protesters reported receiving heavy fines for their participation in earlier protests. 
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