Posted: 16.03.2023 15:45:00

Maidan in Georgian

The new law on foreign agents provoked riots in Tbilisi

The first days of March became a real test of strength for Georgia. The country is facing a serious political crisis. The reason for this is an attempt by stoolpigeons from the West, sitting across the ocean, to rock the country. The trigger for the start of protests by the pro-Western part of society was the draft law on foreign agents approved by the ruling Georgian Dream party and adopted by parliament in the first reading.

What is behind the protests

On the evening of March 7th, a real Maidan broke out near the building of the Parliament of Georgia. Several thousand people gathered on Rustaveli Avenue in the centre of Tbilisi. Representatives of the so-called ‘civil society’ took to the streets of the city to express their dissatisfaction with the bill on foreign agents, which involves the creation of a register of NGOs and media receiving funding from abroad. The initiators of the document claim that the draft is a softened version of a similar American law. The opposition initially began to criticise the Georgian version proposed by the parliamentarians, calling it pro-Russian. In response, the ruling party introduced another version of the bill — the American one, thus showing the opposition how tough it is. As a result of discussions by parliamentarians, the Georgian version was adopted in the first reading. True, the adoption of a softer version of the bill did not save the country from protests and a wave of criticism from the European Union. 
After the law was adopted in the first reading, protests began in Tbilisi in the evening. 
The reason for the sudden rebellion lies not in the law on foreign agents. The unwillingness of the United States to lose its influence in Georgia was the stumbling block. 
The West is well aware that the loss of a serious lever of influence on the country’s politics — local NGOs and public organisations that live at their expense, will lead to the departure of Western values imposed on Georgia. For example, Anti-Russian sentiment. Americans firmly believe that Georgia should hate Russia. The US authorities, who are pulling the Ukrainian authorities like puppets by the strings, really want Georgia to get involved in the conflict that has developed between Russia and Ukraine. Here are just such desires so far remain only wet dreams of the State Department.

‘Tops’ of Georgian Protest

While the power structures were trying to calm down the dissatisfied, the main instigators of the Georgian Maidan raised their voices. The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said that the bill is incompatible with the values of the EU and contradicts Georgia’s goal of joining the union. In the United States, meanwhile, they noted that those responsible for the suppression of protests could fall under US sanctions. True, the most interesting was yet to come. The unrest in Georgia was supported by Armenian pro-Western NGOs, in particular Pashinyan’s former adviser Arsen Kharatyan.

Meanwhile, the US State Department issued a statement saying that the law on foreign agents, which caused protests, was ‘inspired by the Kremlin’ and its adoption would harm Tbilisi’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions. 
One is tempted to say in response to this: ‘Well, these demons saw the hand of the Kremlin even here’. And also ask the West a question: is there anything in this world where the Russians and Putin are not to blame? It is a rhetorical question to which Western countries are not yet ready to give a clear answer.
A wave of spontaneous rallies led to skirmishes and clashes between demonstrators and the police. It was especially hot in Tbilisi on the night of March 8th-9th. Not without special effects in the form of protesters near the ranks of the special forces with calls to ‘go over to the side of the people’, demonstration performances with flowers, howling from the ‘Stop violence!’ series. The crowd tried to storm the Parliament, built barricades, set cars on fire, threw Molotov cocktails at the police. The security forces had no choice but to use water cannons and tear gas in response. On this occasion, the Western media and a number of telegram channels, as expected, raised a fuss about the use of force against peaceful protesters. 
Already familiar situation, isn’t it? A kind of deja vu, only the August events in Belarus and the January events in Kazakhstan were replaced by Georgia. Among the Georgian flags were the flags of the EU, the USA and Ukraine, in the crowd there were drummers who set the general rhythm, and also the name of the action ‘Women’s March’. Everything is just like in 2020 in Minsk. 
Only late at night did the special forces manage to disperse the crowd, the most active participants in the action were detained. And President Salome Zourabichvili announced that she would veto the law on foreign agents, “I am with you because today you represent free Georgia. Georgia, which sees its future in Europe and will not give anyone the right to take away this future. This law must be abolished in any form.”
The ruling party of Georgia decided to withdraw the bill from the Parliament. However, the opposition party Girchi — More Freedom, as well as representatives of a number of NGOs, announced that they would continue the protests, demanding the release of detainees and clarity on the procedure for withdrawing the bill. A little later, the Georgian Foreign Ministry announced the release of all the detained protesters. 
Unfortunately, the Georgian government does not realise that one has only to take a step towards the crowd, and the arrival of a puppet government is guaranteed.

By Anastasia Tselyuk
Photos by REUTERS