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Georgian police fire teargas as huge ‘foreign agents’ bill protests rock Tbilisi – Europe live

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Georgia’s ombudsman has visited detainees and injured opposition figures.

The Public Defender with representatives has visited in detention centers 22 detainees within Tbilisi and Zugdidi. Also visited UNM members Levan Khabeishvili and Sofo Japaridze at the clinic.
PDO hotline-1481https://t.co/cQg9Xb129N pic.twitter.com/Ybhsfeuo4K

— Ombudsman of Georgia (@Ombudsman_Geo) May 1, 2024

‘The violence should stop’, German ambassador says

Peter Fischer, the German ambassador to Georgia, has raised concern about “violence and personal injuries” in the Tbilisi protests.

“The violence should stop. It is never a solution,” he said, adding that Germany and the European Union “are following and evaluating these events closely.”

Violence and personal injuries this night at #TbilisiProtests. The violence should stop. It is never a solution. 🇩🇪 and 🇪🇺 are following and evaluating these events closely. We are partners and friends of 🇬🇪 for peace, freedom and development.

— Peter Fischer (@Diplo_Peter) May 1, 2024

German Green member of the European parliament Viola von Cramon has called for “concrete consequences.”

We need concrete consequences!
– withdrawal of the EU-candidate status
– stop the funds for 🇬🇪 projects
– sanction Bidzina Ivanishvilli
– travel bans for MPs who vote in favour of the #RussianLaw https://t.co/NBnlqnCan7

— Viola von Cramon 🇺🇦🇪🇺🇮🇱 (@ViolavonCramon) May 1, 2024

“The Georgian people cannot and will not be silenced!” wrote the country’s president, Salome Zourabichvili, whose role is primarily ceremonial.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of Georgia’s ruling party, deepened concerns about the country’s future when he gave a speech earlier this week lashing out at the west and defending the highly controversial foreign agents bill that has fuelled protests.

“Despite the promise made at the Bucharest Summit in 2008, Georgia and Ukraine were not allowed to join NATO and were left outside. All such decisions are made by the Global War Party, which has a decisive influence on NATO and the European Union and which only sees Georgia and Ukraine as cannon fodder,” Ivanishvili said.

“Non-transparent funding of NGOs is the main tool with which you can appoint the authorities of Georgia from abroad,” he said in the speech, which critics have described as conspiratorial.

“Radicalism, so-called polarisation, and periodic political upheavals, which have cost our country and its economy dearly over the years, were induced from outside in a completely artificial manner,” he said.

Michael Roth, chairman of the German Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, has called on Georgia’s leadership to stop the violence and withdraw the foreign agents bill.

Dear @PM_Kobakhidze,

👉🏽 Stop immediately the violence against your citizens, demonstrating peacefully on the streets for European values.

👉🏽 Withdraw the #ForeignAgentsLaw!

👉🏽 Don’t destroy Georgia’s future which lies in the very heart of Europe!

🇬🇪🇪🇺🫶

— Michael Roth – official 🇪🇺🇺🇦🇮🇱 (@MiRo_SPD) May 1, 2024

EU foreign policy chief ‘strongly’ condemns violence in Georgia

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said today that he “strongly” condemns violence against protesters and said use of force is “unacceptable.”

“I strongly condemn the violence against protesters in Georgia who were peacefully demonstrating against the law on foreign influence,” he said.

“Georgia is an EU candidate country, I call on its authorities to ensure the right to peaceful assembly. Use of force to suppress it is unacceptable,” he added.

I strongly condemn the violence against protesters in Georgia who were peacefully demonstrating against the law on foreign influence. Georgia is an EU candidate country, I call on its authorities to ensure the right to peaceful assembly.Use of force to suppress it is unacceptable

— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) May 1, 2024

In a statement, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association said that “peaceful protest is a mechanism for promoting democratic processes in the hands of citizens, and any attempt to suppress it is an anti-constitutional act.”

Transparency International Georgia has called for an investigation into police conduct during last night’s protests.

“Tonight, on 30 April 2024, during a peaceful rally, while citizens were expressing their peaceful protest against the Russian law, the Ministry of the Interior, without any apparent reason and due warning, started dispersing the crowd,” the watchdog said in a statement.

“The MoI forces used disproportionate force. Some protesters were beaten up. Police used rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, and water canons. Many protesters were arrested,” it said, adding:

“We call on the MoI to stop using force against the peaceful protesters and allow them to exercise their freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression in a secure environment. We call on the Special Investigative Service to investigate the crimes committed by the police officers.”

63 detained in Georgia protest: ministry

63 people were detained in Georgia during a protest against the ‘foreign agents’ bill and six police officers were injured, Georgia’s interior ministry said, Reuters reported.

A woman reacts as law enforcement officers use a water cannon to disperse the crowd near the parliament building, during a rally to protest against a bill on ‘foreign agents’ in Tbilisi. Photograph: Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters
A demonstrator holds a flag of the European Union during a protest in Tbilisi. Photograph: Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters
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‘Strong concerns’: US official spoke with Georgian MPs

Jim O’Brien, the US state department’s assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, said late yesterday that he had an “important conversation with Georgian MPs about our bilateral relationship.”

The discussion covered “our strong concerns over the draft Kremlin-inspired ‘foreign influence’ law and its negative impact on Georgia’s European aspirations,” he said.

Important conversation with Georgian MPs about our bilateral relationship, including our strong concerns over the draft Kremlin-inspired “foreign influence” law and its negative impact on Georgia’s European aspirations.

— Assistant Secretary Jim O’Brien (@StateEUR) April 30, 2024

Here are images from the latest protests in Tbilisi. Georgian security forces used water cannon, teargas and stun grenades against protesters outside parliament late yesterday.

An opposition party supporter and riot police during a protest against a draft bill on ‘foreign agents’ near the Parliament in Tbilisi, Georgia. Photograph: David Mdzinarishvili/EPA
Riot police use pepper spray to disperse protesters during a rally against a controversial “foreign influence” bill. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Protestors clash with the police as they block the exists of the parliament building in Tbilisi Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

‘Heartbroken’: Lithuanian minister says Georgia situation like ‘losing a friend’

“I am heartbroken to hear Ivanishvili’s vision for Georgia’s future,” said Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister.

“I am devastated by this sudden change in relations with countries, including Lithuania, which have been Georgia’s closest allies. It feels like we are losing a friend,” he wrote in a social media post.

“We are now shocked to see Georgians being dragged towards unfreedom by those who are most scared of freedom themselves. But we know that Georgians, like Lithuanians, are eternally free-spirited and freedom will always flourish,” he added.

I am heartbroken to hear Ivanishvili’s vision for Georgia’s future. I am devastated by this sudden change in relations with countries, including Lithuania, which have been Georgia’s closest allies. It feels like we are losing a friend.🧵

— Gabrielius Landsbergis🇱🇹 (@GLandsbergis) April 30, 2024

Teargas and stun grenades used against Georgian protesters opposing ‘foreign agents’ bill

Georgian security forces used water cannon, teargas and stun grenades against protesters outside parliament late on Tuesday, sharply escalating a crackdown after lawmakers debated a “foreign agents” bill that is viewed by the opposition and western nations as authoritarian and Russian-inspired.

Reuters witnesses saw some police officers physically attack protesters – who threw eggs and bottles at them – before using teargas, water cannon and stun grenades to force demonstrators from the area outside the Soviet-built parliament building.

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators have shut down Tbilisi’s central streets on a nightly basis since parliament approved the bill’s first reading on 17 April.

Masked riot police violently rushed the peaceful rally while beating and arresting scores of people protesting against the bill. Several journalists were attacked, including an AFP photographer who was beaten with a rubber baton despite being clearly identified as a member of the press, according to the news agency.

Levan Khabeishvili – the chairman of the main opposition United National Movement of jailed ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili – was badly beaten and had to seek medical help.

Read the full story.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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Today we will be focusing on the latest in Georgia.

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