Georgia approaches Russia: thousands of people protest the government

Georgia is moving away from the European Union and stepping into Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The Tsibilisi parliament for the first time passed legislation to introduce a registry of organizations considered “agents of foreign influence”; this is a controversial formula already used by Moscow and some allied countries. alleged espionage, internal opposition, media and civil society are not aligned with the Kremlin. The approval sparked a new wave of protests among pro-EU Georgians who gathered in the capital overnight.

While protesters sang the Georgian national anthem and waved European Union and Georgian flags, riot police fired tear gas, water cannon and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. “Down with Russian law,” the protesters shouted. According to a recent survey, 80% of Georgia’s population favors the country’s accession to the European Union. Georgia, which was occupied by Moscow troops in 2008 after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, applied for candidate status to join the bloc, along with Ukraine and Moldova. However, Brussels only partially met the demand, proposing a series of reforms before Tsibilisi formally received the status.

The reaction of the ruling party’s Georgian Dream, which was on paper for EU membership, went in the opposite direction instead. Its leader, Irakli Kobakhidze, pursued a policy of détente with Russia in order to avoid a dangerous war with Moscow. In reality, according to critics, Kobakhidze is trying to divert attention from the EU’s reform demands, including those of the oligarchs. Such a law could affect, for example, the interests of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is seen by the opposition as the puppeteer of the Georgian Dream she founded. “Ivanishvili, whose assets account for more than 20 percent of all Georgia’s economic output, made billions in Russia before he became Georgia’s prime minister,” Politico recalls.

The oligarch is said to be in the shadows to stop the country’s rapprochement with the EU. His successor, young German-educated Kobakhidze, does it instead, with his face open. Tens of thousands of Russians have moved to Georgia since the war in Ukraine began. Last September alone, 220,000 Russian citizens would have arrived in the country. For the Georgian Dream, these are refugees fleeing the war. But simultaneously with their arrival, the number of Russian companies established in Georgia also increased sharply: by the end of 2022 there were about 13 thousand, half of which were opened after the invasion of Ukraine.

According to the opposition, the Kremlin’s long hand, which has already controlled the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the 2008 war, may be hiding behind this flow. They may be “influencers” or, more simply, Russian spies sent into the country to prepare the way for military intervention.

Source: Today IT