Two Americans, one Russian citizen among 20 people detained in Georgia

Two US citizens and a Russian were among 20 people arrested during protests in Tbilisi as Georgian lawmakers debated a bill on “foreign agents” that has sparked a political crisis in Russia TASS The state news agency reported this on Monday.

The Georgian opposition called on opponents of the bill to stage a night-time protest in front of parliament on Sunday to prevent MPs from entering on Monday.

Georgian Prime Minister Iraqi Kobakhidze vowed on Sunday to move forward with the bill after opponents of the law gathered in one of the largest protests since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

TASS reported, citing witnesses, that police began pushing protesters away from the service entrances to the parliament building early Monday, leading to some scuffles.

The Foreign Agents Law requires organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence or face fines. The ruling party says it is necessary to increase the transparency of NGO funding and protect the country from outside interference.

Western countries and the Georgian opposition condemn it as authoritarian and Russian-inspired. Critics compare it to Russia's 2012 “foreign agents” law, which persecutes critics of Vladimir Putin's Kremlin.

The dispute over the bill is now seen as crucial to whether Georgia, which has traditionally enjoyed good relations with the West, continues its push for membership in the European Union and NATO or instead develops ties with Russia.

The EU, which granted Georgia candidate status in December, has repeatedly said the draft law could jeopardize Tbilisi's further integration into the bloc.

Russian news agency RIA said the Georgian parliament's legal committee approved the third reading of the bill on Monday, clearing the way for the entire parliament to vote this week to finalize its passage through the legislature.

Published May 13, 2024, 06:47 IS

Anna Harden

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