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Live updates | Georgia’s foreign agent bill passes first reading in parliament 

17 April 2024
A crowd of thousands of protesters in front of the parliament building on Wednesday. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media

Protests against Georgia’s foreign agent law have moved to the Government Chancellery in Tbilisi after parliament approved the bill in its first hearing.

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This article will be updated throughout the day. 

18 Apr 2024, 03:36

We’re wrapping up our coverage of Georgia’s draft foreign agent law for today. You can read a summary of today’s events here.

18 Apr 2024, 03:33

Dozens of protesters remain

Several dozen protesters still remain outside the government Chancellery building, with the rest having left.

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

18 Apr 2024, 02:24

Public Defender: ‘Aleko is with me!’

The Public Defender of Georgia, Levan Ioseliani, posted on Facebook that Aleko Elisashvili, the leader of the opposition Citizens party, who was reportedly detained earlier tonight, was with him.

‘He feels normal, he will talk about the rest himself’, said Ioseliani without clarifying whether Elisashvili was in detention or not.

18 Apr 2024, 01:01

Washington: the foreign agent law would negatively impact Georgia’s goal to become a party to the EU

The US State Department’s deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel reiterated Washington’s concern that the foreign agent bill could ‘stigmatise civil society organisations working to improve the lives of Georgian citizens and media organisations operating within Georgia’.

‘We urge the Georgian government to heed warnings that this bill is not in line with the European Union’s norms and values and would certainly negatively impact Georgia’s progress on its EU path’, he said.

18 Apr 2024, 00:42

Thousands of protesters remain in front of parliament

Thousands of people are still protesting in front of parliament on Shota Rustaveli Avenue. 

Mariam Kvaratskhelia, the co-founder of Tbilisi Pride, wrote on Facebook that the protest ‘continues in two strategic locations’.

Thousands have continued their protest in front of parliament after a huge part of the crowd moved to the nearby Government Chancellery. Shota Kincha/OC Media.

18 Apr 2024, 00:13

Interior Ministry: two arrests, ‘cold weapon’ confiscated

The police have stated that they detained two people for disobeying their orders. They claimed that they recovered a ‘cold weapon’ from one of those detained.

18 Apr 2024, 00:07

Talgha: opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili forcibly dragged into Government Chancellery

Talgha is one of the groups organising the protests.

TV Formula reported that Elisashvili, the leader of the opposition Citizens Party, was taken into the building, adding that he was seen being dragged into a police car with blood on his face.

Elisashvili punched Georgian Dream’s parliamentary leader, Mamuka Mdinaradze, in the face during the Legal Affairs Committee hearing of the draft law on Monday.

According to Georgian Parliamentary procedures, the police must release any arrested or detained MPs within 48 hours unless parliament consents to their arrest.

17 Apr 2024, 23:50

President Zourabichvili: now is not the time for provocations

‘[Now] is not the time for provocation and tension! The people have set an example for calmness and readiness! This protest will not be over today’, said Zourabichvili. 

17 Apr 2024, 23:47

Protesters overwhelmingly outnumber police at Government Chancellery

Police are trying to push back the crowd of thousands of protesters in front of the Government Chancellery.

17 Apr 2024, 23:38

Mtavari: the head of the Special State Protection Service seen at the Government Chancellery

Mtavari Arkhi reported that Anzor Chubinidze, the head of the Special State Protection Service (SSPS), was present at the Chancellery. It is unclear whether Chubinidize was there before or after the arrival of thousands of protesters.

The SSPS is a security agency tasked with protecting high-ranking officials in Georgia.

17 Apr 2024, 23:17

Protesters demand a meeting with Prime Minister Kobakhidze

Thousands of protesters are arriving at the Government Chancellery. They are now demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Kobakhidze and the release of all protesters detained in this week’s protests.

Protesters gathered at Georgia's Government Chancellery. Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

17 Apr 2024, 23:07

Formula: unclear if Prime Minister Kobakhidze is still in the Government Chancellery

Formula TV has reported that it was unclear whether Kobakhidze was still present in the Government Chancellery. Footage from the building shows police mobilising to protect its entrances as protesters begin marching to the Chancellery.

17 Apr 2024, 22:52

Speaker calls on protesters to march to the government chancellery

Levan Tsutskiridze, the executive director of the Eastern European Centre for Multiparty Democracy, has told protesters to move to the nearby government offices, where it has been speculated that Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and other senior officials may be.

It comes after an hourlong ultimatum for the government to renounce the law expired.

The Chancellery building was earlier this evening seen with a heavy police presence.

17 Apr 2024, 22:02

Burchuladze sings ‘O sole mio’

Georgian operatic bass and civil activist Paata Burchuladze has sung ‘O sole mio’ to the crowd, and was greeted with cheers, whistles, and applause. Organisers earlier played songs by cult Georgian singer Irakli Charkviani.

17 Apr 2024, 21:44

A speaker has announced an ultimatum, stating that Georgia’s government has one hour to retract the foreign draft law.

17 Apr 2024, 21:12

Hundreds of police gathered at government chancellery

There is a heavy police presence outside the government chancellery building, with hundreds of police officers guarding the building.

Police gathered outside the government chancellery. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media

17 Apr 2024, 20:55

Protests held in Georgian regions

Smaller protests have been held in the west Georgian cities of Kutaisi, Batumi, and Zugdidi against the government revival of the controversial bill.

Batumi. Photo: Batumelebi
Kutaisi. Photo: Info Imereti
Zugdidi. Photo: Radio Atinati

17 Apr 2024, 20:30

Tsikhanouskaya expresses support for Georgian protesters

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has expressed her support for Georgia's pro-European movement. 

‘The freedom of people to express their opinions peacefully on the streets, as well as the freedom of the press & civil society, are core values that [...] must always be protected’, wrote Tsikhanouskaya. 

17 Apr 2024, 20:18

Tbilisi nightclubs join voices against the bill

A number of Tbilisi’s most famous nightclubs, including Bassiani, Khidi, Mtkvarze, and Left Bank, have released statements against the foreign agent bill, and called on people to join tonight’s protest. 

Bassiani described reintroducing the bill as a ‘traitorous anti-people decision’ and urged Georgians to ‘reclaim the streets and fight until victory’. 

Left Bank stated that the move was ‘calculated sabotage’ of Georgia’s prospects of EU integration, ‘led by power-hungry government officials’. 

‘The demonstration outside the parliament building continues’, wrote Left Bank. ‘We urge everyone to take part. Unity and solidarity are paramount at this moment in time.’


17 Apr 2024, 20:11

Rustaveli Avenue blocked

Tbilisi’s central Rustaveli Avenue has been blocked by protesters against the foreign agent law.
A crowd of thousands of protesters in front of the parliament building. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media

17 Apr 2024, 19:56

Thousands gather outside parliament

Thousands of protesters have now gathered outside the Georgian Parliament, hours after the foreign agent bill passed its first reading. People continue to arrive, with a large group of students preparing to march down the central Rustaveli Avenue to parliament.

Riot police with water cannons have been bussed in to the nearby Liberty Square and a courtyard by parliament.

Riot police inside the courtyard of the parliament building. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
A protester puts stickers on the gates of parliament. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Thousands of protesters are outside parliament, with more pouring in.

17 Apr 2024, 19:31

Protesters boo police

Hundreds of protesters are booing and chanting ‘slaves’ at police behind Georgia's parliament. Hundreds have gathered ahead of a larger protest against the foreign agent law scheduled to begin this evening.

17 Apr 2024, 19:29

PM Kobakhidze calls President Zourabichvili an ‘agent of foreign influence’

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has both claimed that ‘agent of foreign influence’ would be a neutral term if the law is approved, and derogatively described President Salome Zourabichvili as such for her opposition to the draft bill. 

‘Salome Zourabichvili is herself an agent of foreign influence. Therefore,  she solely speaks for respective foreign powers — a global party of war, something that we have discussed on more than one occasion’, said Kobakhidze.

Zourabichwili has committed to vetoing the bill if the parliament adopts it, but noted that the ruling party has a sufficient majority in parliament to overturn her veto.

17 Apr 2024, 17:45

Prime Minister doubles down

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has warned against the ‘Ukrainisation’ of Georgia, in a lengthy press briefing in which he attacked local civil society groups and media organisations, Western leaders, and protesters against the draft foreign agent law.

Kobakhidze claimed that between 2020–2022, Georgian civil society organisations had twice attempted to organise a revolution. 

‘If they had succeeded […] Georgia would have been in an even worse situation than Ukraine’, he claimed. 

He went on to accuse Georgian civil society groups of joining a campaign to open a ‘second front’ — a frequent allegation by Georgian Dream that global and local forces are conspiring to drag Georgia into war with Russia. 

Kobakhidze began his address with a lengthy introduction in which he slammed civil society groups and independent media for what he said were their ‘attacks’ on the Georgian Orthodox Church, and promoting ‘LGBT propaganda’.

He criticised the protesters against the law, who he said were protesting against Georgia’s sovereignty. He went on to suggest that critics of the law had pressured leading Georgian athletes into making pro-European and anti-Russian statements over the past day. 

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze at the press briefing. Screengrab via Parliament/YouTube

Kobakhidze continued by doubling down on the need for the foreign agent law.

He said Western leaders had failed to present any arguments against the draft law, calling out NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz specifically. Both have criticised the law, insisting it was incompatible with Georgia's stated goals of integrating into Western institutions. Other EU leaders have also made clear the law would likely preclude Georgia from EU membership.

Kobakhidze, however, said the law’s passage was necessary for the country’s path towards Europe.

‘The draft law, first of all, aims at defending Georgia from Ukrainisation, strengthening Georgia’s sovereignty and stable development, which is the main condition for Georgia’s euro-integration’, he said.

‘A much stricter standard applies in the United States. The [European] Commission has approved a draft law with much stricter standards, and many EU member states have laws with much stricter standards’, he claimed. 

‘Forward, with honour, to Europe!’, Kobakhidze concluded his speech.

17 Apr 2024, 17:35

Zourabichvili speaking on the BBC. Screenshot via Twitter

In an interview with the BBC aired after the bill passed its first reading, Zourabichvili once again condemned the Georgian Dream party’s intention to enact the ‘foreign agent’ bill as a law that she described as a ‘copy of Putin’s law that was adopted in 2012’ and intended ‘by some in power to [put] an obstacle' to Georgia’s road to European integration.

The Georgian president noted that Georgian Dream were pushing the controversial law on ‘transparency’ of foreign influence in Georgia while the ‘high levels of the [Georgian] government’ was suffering from corruption. 

‘Who has decided that this law should be reintroduced?’, asked Zourabichvili. ‘Is it in Georgia, or is it beyond our borders, is it in Moscow that this decision has been taken? That is the main question about transparency that the Georgian population is asking.’

17 Apr 2024, 17:01

EU: ‘Not in line with EU core norms and values’

The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, and the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, have urged Georgian Dream to retract the foreign agent bill, which they described as ‘not in line with EU core norms and values’. 

‘The EU urges Georgia to refrain from adopting legislation that can compromise Georgia’s EU path, a path supported by the overwhelming majority of Georgian citizens’, they said in a joint statement issued soon after the bill passed its first reading in parliament.

17 Apr 2024, 16:55

Medvedev: ‘it is a Russian idea’

Former Russian President and Deputy Chair of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, has published an extensive post on his Telegram commenting on the protest wave in Georgia. 

‘Whoever calls such actions spontaneous protests, let him be the first to throw a stone at his own mirror’, he wrote.

‘The main thing that “protesters” don’t like about the law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence”, which the Georgian parliament is trying to pass, is that it is, you see, a “Russian idea” and not a Western initiative’, he added.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov also commented on the bill, insisting there was no ground to call it ‘Russian’ as Georgian critics do. 

Peskov added that opposition to the law was an attempt to ‘provoke anti-Russian sentiments' in Georgia that ‘probably come from outside’. 

17 Apr 2024, 16:50

Charter of Journalistic Ethics calls for investigation into attacks on journalists

Charter of Journalistic Ethics has expressed concern regarding the attacks on three journalists by riot police last night.

‘The Charter calls on the General Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia and the Special Investigation Service to quickly and effectively investigate the crimes committed against journalists’.

17 Apr 2024, 16:34

Georgian Dream to lift taxes on offshore assets introduced to Georgia  

Georgian Dream has also approved in the first reading amendments to the Tax Code lifting all taxes and duties on offshore assets introduced to Georgia. 

The changes were originally announced last week as a tax debt relief, but it has now been reported an addition regarding offshore assets was added shortly before the first vote.

There have been suggestions the change could be aimed at protecting the assets of the billionaire founder of Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, from possible Western sanctions in response to the passage of the foreign agent law. 

‘For this he needs an isolated country that the West can’t reach’, Shota Dighmelashvili, the editor-in-chief of Forbes Georgia, suggested. ‘Such a country can only be Georgia under Putin’s wing’, he added.

17 Apr 2024, 15:39

Independent MP leaves parliament in protest 

Independent MP Grigol Vashadze has announced that he is leaving parliament in light of the foreign agent law passing its first hearing, reports IPN

He stated that there was ‘no legal, political, moral, or pragmatic justification for the existence, and even more so the adoption, of the draft law’.

‘If this draft law becomes law, it will eventually be used to establish an authoritarian regime’, he said. ‘Under these conditions, being in the parliament has neither political meaning nor moral justification for me. I am leaving the parliament! The opinion of Georgian society is of decisive importance for me. I hope that the government will refuse to accept this draft law.’

Grigol Vashadze. Photo: IPN

17 Apr 2024, 15:26

Opposition MPs removed from parliament before vote

Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili ejected a number of opposition MPs before the vote that concluded the foreign agent law’s first hearing. Those ejected included United National Movement (UNM) leader Levan Khabeishvili, UNM MP Tina Bokuchava, Strategy Aghmashenebeli’s leader Giorgi Vashadze, and Lelo MP Ana Natsvlishvili.

Publika reported that there was noise during the plenary session, with opposition MPs banging on their desks and shouting: ‘no to Russian law’ and ‘traitor’.

MPs in parliament. Photo: Salome Chaduneli/RFE/RL

17 Apr 2024, 14:47

Foreign agent law passes first reading

The foreign agent bill has passed its first reading in the parliament. 83 MPs voted for the bill and zero against, with opposition MPs boycotting the vote. During the reading, Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili ejected four opposition MPs. The bill must pass two more readings and likely overcome a presidential veto before coming into effect. 

17 Apr 2024, 14:20

UFC for EU: Topuria and Dvalishvili express support

Ilia Topuria, Georgia’s first UFC champion, and Merab Dvalishvili, who currently ranks first in the UFC bantamweight rankings, have made pro-European posts in support of protesters. 

‘It is painful to see how the special forces beat the protestors’, wrote Topuria. ‘It is important that the voice of the Georgian people is heard and respected. It is a pity that the Georgian people still have to fight for it. By reaching out to Europe, together we can build a more prosperous and peaceful future for our country’.

Dvalishvili wrote that he wanted to respond to ‘current events’ in Georgia, and state his opinion that ‘Georgia is and should be a full member of the European family and civilization’.

Topuria and Dvalishvili. Photo: Merab Dvalishvili/Instagram

17 Apr 2024, 13:54

Public defender meets detainees

Georgia’s Public Defender Levan Ioseliani has met with several people arrested during yesterday’s protest. 

He stated that two detainees reported injuries, with one having an apparent injury on their face, while the other reported that they had sustained an injury although it was not visible. 

Ioseliani told journalists that he would visit other detainees later today.

17 Apr 2024, 13:45

Speaker accuses protesters of ‘using violence as a tool’

Shalva Papuashvili, Georgia’s parliamentary speaker, has accused protesters against the foreign agent draft law of engaging in violence, stating that ‘violence has become a tool to achieve their political goal’.

‘These civic activists, the Shame [Movement], the Franklin Club, who trained various young people with foreign funding, it turned out that this is what their Europe is — violence as a tool to achieve a political goal. This is the most un-European and un-Georgian way’, he stated.

17 Apr 2024, 13:38

Protesters gather behind parliament

A few hundred protesters are currently gathered behind parliament, as the foreign agent law’s first hearing continues. There is a significant police presence.

Protesters behind parliament. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media

17 Apr 2024, 13:22

Rights organisations call on Interior Ministry to ‘stop physical retaliation’ against protesters

Nine leading civil society organisations have called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to ‘stop physical retaliation against peaceful demonstrators’, and to provide lawyers with information about the whereabouts of the detainees in a timely manner. Yesterday, rights groups noted that their lawyers were initially unable to access information about the location and condition of detainees. 

The organisations have also called on Georgia’s Special Investigation Service to investigate alleged crimes committed by police officers. 

17 Apr 2024, 13:11

Kvaratskhelia for ‘European future’

Georgian star footballer and Napoli player Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has shared a pro-European post and story, writing that ‘Georgia’s path and future goes only to Europe’.
‘Forward to Europe! Peace to Georgia!’, he wrote.

17 Apr 2024, 12:53

Foreign agent law’s first hearing resumes

The first hearing of the foreign agent law has resumed in parliament, with the discussion remaining heated and tense.

17 Apr 2024, 12:43

Lelo party: secretary general ‘severely beaten’ by police

The opposition Lelo party have said that their party’s secretary general, Irakli Kupradze, was ‘severely beaten’ by police after being detained alongside other protesters, reports IPN.

‘According to the detainees, the police used disproportionate force and severely abused the detainees. Most of them were beaten, including Irakli Kupradze’, said Lelo.

17 Apr 2024, 12:26

Two protests planned for today

Two demonstrations against the foreign agent draft law are scheduled to be held near the parliament building in Tbilisi. 

The first is expected to begin around midday behind the parliament as the bill’s first hearing continues, with the second planned for 19:00 in front of the building.

Anti-government activist group Shame Movement's event cover image. Image: Shame Movement/Facebook

17 Apr 2024, 12:08

Georgian football stars oppose ‘Russian law’

The Georgian national team following their win against Greece. Photo: Levan Kobiashvili/Instagram

The former captain of Georgia’s national football team, Jaba Kankava, and a number of prominent current players, including Budu Zivzivadze, Giorgi Mamardashvili, and Giorgi Chakvetadze, have published anti-Russian and pro-European stories and posts today. The footballers, who are enjoying particular popularity due to their progression to the Euro 2024 finals, made their posts as mass protests take place in Georgia against the ‘Russian law’, which is seen as bringing Georgia closer to Russia and further from Europe. 

Kankava wrote ‘Fuck Russia’ on a background of the Georgian and European flags. Around an hour later, Chakvetadze posted the Georgian and EU flags with the hashtag #GeorgiainEurope, while Mamardashvili wrote that ‘Georgia's path and future goes only through Europe!’. 

Budu Zivzivadze wrote ‘No to Russia! Georgia's way is to Europe’, in a post on Facebook alongside an image of protesters wearing EU and Georgian flags. He added that ‘no one should thank me because I say what every Georgian should say’.

The photograph shared by Zivzivadze. Photo: Kate Mosiava/Facebook


17 Apr 2024, 11:56

Key events from yesterday

  • Parliament failed to vote on the foreign agent law in its first hearing, after discussion continued late into the evening. The hearing will continue today from noon.
  • Tens of thousands of protesters gathered around the parliament building in Tbilisi, blocking Rustaveli Avenue and three out of four of the parliament’s main exits. 
  • Riot police violently dispersed protesters and journalists, kicking and beating protesters and injuring a number of journalists. 
  • Eleven protesters were detained, bringing the total number of those remaining in detention since Monday to 21. 
  • European Council President Charles Michel noted that Georgian Dream’s foreign agent bill was inconsistent with ‘Georgia’s EU aspirations and its accession trajectory’ and would distance Georgia from the EU.

17 Apr 2024, 11:25

Online media banned from parliament for a third day

Online media journalists are banned from entering Georgia’s parliament for a third day, as the foreign agent law’s first hearing continues. The official reason for the restriction remains providing a safe working environment in parliament, but Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili yesterday accused journalists of seeking to protest rather than report.

17 Apr 2024, 11:21

Riot police being brought to parliament

At least one bus of riot police was seen moving towards parliament this morning by OC Media.