Thousands protest in Georgia after lawmakers pass controversial ‘Russian law’

Thousands of protesters rallied Tuesday in Georgia after parliament adopted a law to brand overseas-funded NGOs as groups under “foreign influence”, a measure Brussels has warned will undermine Tbilisi’s European aspirations.

Lawmakers voted 84 to 30 in favour during the third and final reading of the law, which was widely denounced as mirroring repressive Russian legislation used to silence dissent.

Street protesters skirmished with riot police outside the parliament building in the centre of the capital, where demonstrations have raged for the last month.

Scuffles even broke out inside the chamber earlier as opposition lawmakers clashed with members of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Critics say the bill is a symbol of the ex-Soviet republic’s drift closer to Russia’s orbit over recent years.

Chanting “no to the Russian law”, around 2,000 mainly young protesters gathered outside parliament ahead of the vote and several thousand joined the rally in the evening after news spread that lawmakers had adopted the law.

The interior ministry said 13 demonstrators were arrested for “disobeying police orders”.

The wife of prominent opposition activist David Katsarava said he was badly beaten by riot poice after he was detained at the protest.

The EU has said the law is “incompatible” with Georgia’s longstanding bid to join the 27-nation bloc, while Washington has warned its adoption would signal Tbilisi’s departure from the Western orbit.


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