Following protests, Georgia has withdrawn a controversial bill in the South Caucasus on the introduction of a register of "foreign agents". This was announced by the ruling party Georgian Dream on Thursday in the capital Tbilisi.
Similar to Russia, the Georgian leadership wanted to classify media and non-governmental organizations that receive money from abroad as foreign agents. This led to protests. Also in the night to Thursday, the police had proceeded again with violence against demonstrators. According to eyewitness reports, the pro-European demonstrators surrounded the parliament of the South Caucasus republic in Tbilisi. Some tried to enter the building. The police used tear gas and water cannons, as the night before, as Georgian television stations showed. According to media reports, parliament speaker Shalva Papuashvili called on the demonstrators to remain peaceful. According to the newspaper "Georgia Today" there were again several arrests.
There had also been criticism of the draft law from abroad. According to US State Department spokesman Ned Price, the "Kremlin-inspired" bill "is not compatible with the Georgian people's clear desire for European integration and democratic development." Implementing the plans would damage Georgia's relationship with its strategic partners and call into question the country's "Euro-Atlantic future," Price said in Washington on Wednesday.
By early Wednesday evening, according to observers, between 10,000 and 15,000 people had gathered peacefully at parliament. There were more than on Tuesday, reported a reporter of the German press Agency. In the protests the day before, the police of the South Caucasus republic had arrested, according to official figures, 66 demonstrators.
Under pressure from Russia's big neighbour
Also on Wednesday, protesters waved Georgian and Ukrainian flags as well as the blue star flag of the EU. In solidarity with Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia, Georgians also sang the Ukrainian anthem. In the later street battles, the police pushed away the remaining demonstrators, who in turn threw stones and bottles.
Human rights activists from Freedom House were alarmed by the violence in Tbilisi. "The fundamental right to peaceful assembly must be protected against Molotov cocktails, tear gas and water cannons," the NGO said on Twitter. She urged the Georgian government to reconsider the controversial bill.
The small ex-Soviet republic of Georgia on the Black Sea with 3.7 million inhabitants has long been under pressure from its large neighbor Russia. Moscow also supports the secessionist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The current leadership of the Georgian Dream party is pursuing a more Russia-friendly course. The majority of Georgians, however, want their country to become a member of the EU and NATO. They fear that this opportunity will be destroyed by authoritarian rules such as those in Moscow. President Salome Zurabischwili had backed the demonstrators and announced that she would not sign the controversial agent law.