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Live updates | Foreign agent protests to continue

19 April 2024
Graffiti on the parliament building on Thursday night, reading 'Georgia is yours!' Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media

Further protests have been announced for Friday evening. While the foreign agent law is not expected to go to a hearing today, the Interior Minister will speak in parliament during today’s plenary session. 

An amendment to Georgia’s tax code exempting offshore assets from tax and duties will go to its third and final hearing today, in a move that many have speculated is aimed at protecting ruling party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili from possible Western sanctions.

Read more:

20 Apr 2024, 02:00

We’re ending our live coverage of Georgia’s draft foreign agent law for today.

20 Apr 2024, 00:06

The protesters have returned to the parliament building in Tbilisi.

19 Apr 2024, 22:20

Traffic on the right bank of River Mtkvari has been blocked as thousands of people march towards Hero’s Square.

Protesters march along the River Mtkvari.

Passengers on a city bus cheer protesters near Heros Square.

19 Apr 2024, 22:05

Protesters have arrived at the Justice House

Thousands of people have marched from the parliament to the nearby Justice House, blocking a portion of traffic on the road in front of the building.

They are now marching towards the Dry Bridge.

Protesters have blocked a portion of the traffic in front of the Justice House. Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

19 Apr 2024, 21:36

Opposition alliance accuses ruling party of illegal use of police force

A group of opposition parties has accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of illegally using police units to ‘carry out punitive measures’ against protesters.

On Thursday, the group, which includes the United National Movement, Lelo, Droa, Girchi – More Freedom, the Republican Party, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, and Ahali, announced they would launch ‘full mobilisation’ at the next hearing of the foreign agent law, the date of which has not yet been confirmed. 

The parties addressed the Interior Ministry, noting that individuals responsible for giving illegal orders to police must be held liable. 

‘Beating, chasing peaceful protesters, illegal use of special police forces, [and] illegal restriction of the right to assembly and demonstration are crimes for which the guilty persons […] must be held accountable before an independent, impartial and fair court’, they wrote. 

The parties also said that following a change of government and the formation of a ‘coalition, European government’, Georgian citizens would never again encounter riot police at peaceful demonstrations.

19 Apr 2024, 21:33

Georgia’s new tax amendments

Earlier today, Georgian Dream passed amendments to the tax code that would lift taxes on offshore assets being brought into Georgia. Many have speculated the move was aimed at shielding Bidzina Ivanishvili from future Western sanctions, including over the passage of the foreign agent law.

Read more about the amendments here: Georgian Dream eliminates taxes on offshore assets brought to Georgia.

19 Apr 2024, 21:26

Podcast | A week of protests against Georgia’s foreign agent law

Tune into this week’s episode of the Caucasus Digest to hear OC Media’s Mariam Nikuradze and Shota Kincha talk about this week’s protests against the foreign agent law, the government’s reactions, and how the coming weeks might unfold.

19 Apr 2024, 21:25

Protesters block Liberty Square

Protesters have blocked Tbilisi’s central Liberty Square, and are gathered around the St. George statue. 

Protesters against the bill have blocked Liberty Square. Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

19 Apr 2024, 21:06

Protesters begin march to Justice House

Protesters are marching to the Public Service Hall, which is run by the Ministry of Justice; the ministry that would be responsible for 'monitoring' if the law is passed.

19 Apr 2024, 20:55

Rustaveli Avenue blocked

Protesters have once again blocked Tbilisi’s central Rustaveli Avenue in front of the parliament building.

A few thousand protesters are gathered outside parliament. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media

19 Apr 2024, 20:38

Protest resumes outside parliament

Hundreds of protesters are gathered outside Georgia’s parliament, marking the fifth consecutive night of protest against the foreign agent draft law.

The protest was organised by the Dafioni youth movement. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media

19 Apr 2024, 18:50

Criminal case launched for ‘obstructing’ pro-government media

According to the Georgian Public Broadcaster, Georgia's Special Investigation Service has launched a criminal investigation into the obstruction of work of crews from pro-government TV networks Imedi and PosTV

In spite of a call from the Georgian Media Advocacy coalition, the Special Investigation Service has not reported any additional potential investigations pertaining to law enforcement officials impeding the work of independent journalists, including OC Media’s Mariam Nikuradze.

19 Apr 2024, 18:40

Charles Michel repeats warning against the foreign agent bill 

In an interview with Euronews, European Council President Charles Michel today repeated his opposition to Georgia's foreign agent law, stating unequivocally that the move would harm the country's chances of progressing towards EU membership. 

‘I want to be clear: this bill voted in the parliament — this is not bringing Georgia closer to the EU. This is the opposite’, Euronews quoted Michel as saying. 

If candidate countries vote in bills which are ‘not in line with the principles and values’ of the EU, ‘it has an impact’ on the accession process, he noted. 

19 Apr 2024, 18:36

Zourabichvili announces ‘political platform’

Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili has announced that she is seeking to ‘develop a platform together with political parties’, according to translations of an interview with Belgian outlet LN24

For months, there have been rumours that Zourabichvili would run in this year’s parliamentary elections, which she has previously denied. The most recent announcement was taken by some as an indication that the president might be preparing for direct involvement in the elections. 

The president also repeated an earlier announcement that she would veto the foreign agent law if passed. As previously, Zourabichvili noted that the ruling party had a sufficient parliamentary majority to overturn her veto, meaning that it would only provide a temporary obstacle to the bill’s passage into legislation. 

Zourabichvili suggested that October’s elections would be focused on the question of whether Georgia was choosing Europe or Russia. 

This will be a decisive moment and I am very optimistic because I know that the population, Georgian youth, know where they are going and know where they want to go’, said Zourabichvili.

President Salome Zourabichvili. Screengrab from LN24

19 Apr 2024, 17:04

Lavrov calls foreign agent law ‘very mild’

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described Georgia’s foreign agent law as ‘very mild’ and appeared to condemn President Salome Zourabichvili. 

In an interview with three Russian state-associated news agencies, Lavrov condemned Ukraine and Moldova’s move towards the West, accused the West of attempting to create upheaval in the region, and claimed that Moldovan President Maia Sandu’s actions were reminiscent of ‘dictatorial techniques that the West uses when it understands that it needs to act harshly to break any opposition’. 

‘The West allows them to do this, and even, so to speak, encourages them to do it. Just like these demonstrations in Georgia now’, said Lavrov. ‘They turned Salome Zourabichvili into a fighter for freedom of speech, although the law is extremely mild’. 

He went on to claim that similar laws existed in the US and many EU countries — a claim made by many ruling party advocates of the law, as well as Russian officials. 

He appeared to also hint that Zourabichvili would lose power, mentioning that ‘those who, with foreign passports, lead the countries supposedly of their origin’, would not retain either public support or authority for long. 

19 Apr 2024, 16:03

Roman Gotsiridze: Bidzina Ivanishvili should be sanctioned

MP, Eurooptimists chair, and former national bank president Roman Gotsiridze has called for ‘strict sanctions’ on billionaire ruling party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili and MPs who ‘serve the Russians’. 

Speaking to journalists, Gotsiridze claimed that Ivanishvili intended to use the foreign agent law to ‘destroy’ civil society and the media in 2024-2028, following the October parliamentary elections. 

‘These MPs, their family members, should not be allowed in Western countries. They should confiscate accounts and apartments that each of these people has in the West. They should be punished for serving Ivanishvili’, said Gotsiridze. 

Gotsiridze also warned that controversial amendments to Georgia’s tax code, lifting taxes and duties from offshore assets, risked making Georgia into ‘a money-laundering zone’. 

‘Black money will come in, it will become white, and it will go washed to the West. This is money laundering, this wealth will not be returned to Georgia as investments’, said Gotsiridze. 

He also noted that the law had been passed in an unusually expedited manner, with the three hearings taking place over three days. 

‘Why are you in such a hurry?’ he asked. ‘Because Bidzina Ivanishvili does not feel safe in the offshore zone, Western justice has found him there too.’

Roman Gotsiridze speaking to journalists. Photo: IPN

19 Apr 2024, 15:14

Opposition MP physically removed from plenary session after protesting police brutality 

The Parliament security service physically removed Salome Samadashvili, an MP from the opposition Lelo party, from a parliament plenary session after she spoke out against police brutality against protesters in Tbilisi this week, including against her party’s secretary general Irakli Kupradze and opposition parliament member Aleko Elisashvili.

Speaker Shalva Papuashvili instructed the security service members to act by claiming Samadashvili had breached order by interrupting interior minister Vakhtang Gomelauri. In his speech to parliament, Gomelauri alleged that police officers were victims of violence during the protests. 

19 Apr 2024, 14:14

NATO: Foreign agent law ‘does not further’ Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration

Javier Colomina, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy and Special Representative for the Caucasus, has tweeted that NATO is concerned about the foreign agent law passing its first reading in Tbilisi. 

‘This draft is a step backwards, and does not further [Georgia’s] Euro Atlantic integration’, wrote Colomina. 

On Wednesday, Georgian PM Irakli Kobakhidze insisted that foreign critics of the draft bill, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, ‘had zero arguments’ against it. 

On 4 April, Stoltenberg swiftly denounced the retabling of the bill by warning that it would underming ‘the very idea of making Georgia a stronger and more democratic society’.

19 Apr 2024, 13:26

People’s Power: Georgia will be denied accession talks to stir up ‘revolution’

People’s Power, a group within the parliamentary majority controlled by the ruling party, stated on Thursday that Georgians should expect a preliminary refusal from the EU to open accession talks before Georgia’s parliamentary elections take place on 26 October. The group, prominent for their support of billionaire party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili, suggested that the move would be aimed at inspiring ‘revolution’ in Georgia. 

‘They will refuse to open election negotiations, so that they can try to organise a revolution and disturb the country’, the statement read. ‘However, if the public knows the truth, Georgia will undoubtedly protect its sovereignty and the country will be able to maintain peace and tranquillity.’


19 Apr 2024, 13:24

Bundestag refutes Kobakhidze criticism of ambassador

Michael Roth, chair of the German Bundestag’s Foreign Relations Committee, has disputed Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze's recent allegation that Germany’s ambassador to Georgia had misrepresented Germany’s position and reaction to Georgia's upcoming ‘foreign agent’ law .

‘Ambasador quoted our Chancellor correctly!’, wrote Roth on X. ‘I’d like to reassure you that the vast majority of the [German] Bundestag is strictly against the “foreign agent law“. Please withdraw the bill!’

19 Apr 2024, 13:01

Zourabichvili calls ruling party a ‘Georgian nightmare’

In a Thursday interview with France Info, Georgian president Salome Zourabichvili called the ruling Georgian Dream party a ‘Georgian nightmare’. The president again underlined the importance of the October parliamentary elections for Georgia to maintain its pro-European course.

19 Apr 2024, 12:51

DRI: Police unit leader Zviad Kharazishvili ‘spat on’ and threatened a protester

According to Ana Gakhokidze, a lawyer at Tbilisi-based watchdog group the Democracy Research Institute, the head of the Interior Ministry’s Special Tasks Department, Zviad Kharazishvili, ‘spat’ on one of the protesters on the night of 16-17 April while the protester was being detained, filming them with a mobile phone and threatening them. 

Kharazishvili, also known as 'Khareba', was seen leading police troops near the parliament building that night. 

The group also reported that 12 out of 13 protesters who were 'unlawfully detained' on 16-17 April in Tbilisi that they had monitored were ‘severely beaten’, with two remaining hospitalised.

On Thursday night, TV channel Pirveli shared footage of opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili being attacked by a group of police officers after he was separated from the crowd of protesters. Irakli Kupradze, the Lelo party’s secretary general who was released from pre-trial detention yesterday, claimed he was similarly subjected to group violence ‘through a corridor’ organised by riot police. 

19 Apr 2024, 12:44

Interior Minister to address parliament

Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri will speak to parliament in today’s plenary session, after being summoned by the opposition to discuss domestic violence and drug crime. He is expected to face questioning on other subjects, potentially including recent reports of police brutality against protesters, during the session.

19 Apr 2024, 12:25

Offshore tax amendments adopted in third hearing

Amendments to Georgia’s tax code that would exempt offshore assets from any tax or duties have been adopted in their third hearing this week, with 73 votes for and nine against. Many have suggested that the amendments are aimed at protecting billionaire party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili from possible Western sanctions.

19 Apr 2024, 12:17

Online media barred from parliament for a fifth day

Online media has been barred from covering events from within parliament for a fifth day. The refusal to grant journalists from online media outlets accreditation was announced on ‘security’ grounds on Monday. On Tuesday, Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili claimed that journalists from those outlets sought to protest rather than report.

19 Apr 2024, 13:00

Key events from yesterday

  • A few thousand people attended smaller protests organised by activist groups Dafioni and Geut outside Georgia’s parliament on Thursday night. The crowd, predominantly made up of young people, blocked Rustaveli Avenue, promising to resume the rally on Friday. 
  • A number of Georgia’s largest opposition parties announced that they would launch ‘full mobilisation’ at the next hearing of the foreign agent bill, to block its passing. This marks the first major coalition between Georgia’s liberal-leaning opposition parties since the bill’s announcement. 
  • Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili claimed that the previous days of mass street protests against the foreign agent bill demonstrated both the need for the law, and the public demand for it. 
  • President Salome Zourabichvili has been conducting interviews with a number of major international outlets, condemning the ruling party’s revival of the foreign agent law and treatment of protesters.  
  • Footage of opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili being beaten by police on the sidelines of Tuesday’s protest outside the government chancellery was made public. Elisashvili had earlier accused police of beating him, breaking his rib, while detaining him. Elisashvili punched parliamentary majority leader Mamuka Mdinaradze in parliament on Monday.