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Reports emerge of US visa revocations over Georgia foreign agent law

4 June 2024
Leading members of the ruling Georgian Dream party alongside party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili, at a pro-government rally on 29 April. Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.

Two Georgian opposition MPs have claimed that the US has already begun cancelling the visas of members of the ruling Georgian Dream party who voted in favour of the foreign agent law and their families.

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Eurooptimists MP Khatia Dekanoidze said that family members of ‘particular’ Georgian Dream MPs ‘have already received messages’ about the cancellation of their US visas.

‘There will be sanctions very soon’, she added, that would target ‘all those people who participated in violence and those who organised violence’.

Tina Bokuchava, who chairs the opposition United National Movement (UNM)’s parliamentary, also said she had received information that Georgian Dream members had already begun receiving notifications that their existing visas were no longer valid.

‘At today’s meeting with the representatives of the diplomatic corps, we discussed that it is very important for EU member states to work on individual sanctions in a parallel mode’, she said. ‘It is already known that the Estonian Parliament is discussing this issue’.

‘A joint decision from the EU is one thing, but everyone has the right to individually exercise discretion to prevent any person from crossing the border’, she said. ‘That’s why I think it is important that EU member states take such decisions individually, along with the American visa restrictions.’

On Monday 44 of Estonia’s 101 MPs submitted a draft statement condemning the ‘anti-democratic steps taken by the Georgian government and the ruling party, which call into question Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic course against the will of the clear majority of the Georgian people’.


[Read more: Beatings, harassment, and no arrests: Georgian Government critics under attack]

Later on Monday, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that Washington had yet to announce individual sanctions targeting Georgian officials, but that the US ‘will not hesitate to impose them’ if necessary.

Miller reiterated Washington’s concern over the foreign agent law and its effect on Georgian democracy and civil society, reiterating that they had launched a ‘review of our relationship and will consider our response to the actions that the Government of Georgia has taken’.

‘We’ve announced a new sanctions policy’, he said.

Asked why State Secretary Antony Blinken did not visit Georgia as part of his Eastern European tour, Miller cited Blinken as saying that ‘hundreds of millions’ of US dollars in aid to Georgia were at risk in the review, in addition to the visa bans.

‘I think I’ll leave it at that. His commitment to this issue has been quite clear’, he said.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze on Tuesday again dismissed ‘talk of sanctions’ as ‘frivolous and counterproductive’.

He denied reports that members of the ruling party and their family members had been notified of visa cancellations as a ‘common lie’.

The US announced its plans to impose travel and financial sanctions against individuals involved in the foreign agent law and their families earlier in May, with Assistant Secretary of State Jim O’Brien warning that further action could be taken if the law went forward in its then-current form.

O’Brien warned that Washington would go ahead with sanctions if there was a continued ‘undermining of democracy or violence against peaceful protesters’.

Georgian Dream’s reintroduction of the foreign agent law was met with mass protests throughout May, as Georgia’s Western partners continuously stressed that the law was anti-European and anti-democratic, and that MPs who vote for the law could face sanctions.

However, members of the parliamentary majority led by Georgian Dream have expressed indifference to the potential imposition of sanctions against them.

After parliament adopted the law on 28 May, Kobakhidze accused the West of attempting to ‘blackmail the Georgian people and the government elected by the Georgian people with sanctions’.

‘We have strong positions on everything. We serve this society, the interests of the country’, he said.

Georgia’s foreign agent law labels any civil society or media organisation that receive at least 20% of its funding from outside Georgia ‘organisations carrying out the interests of a foreign power’. Such organisations are subject to ‘monitoring’ by the Ministry of Justice every six months, which could include forcing them to hand over internal communications and documents and confidential sources. Organisations and individuals who do not comply would be subject to large fines.

Read in Russian on SOVA.News.
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