Moscow on Friday accused other countries of fomenting mass protests in Georgia, likening it to an attempted coup to sow tensions on Russia’s borders.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said days of demonstrations in the Georgian capital Tbilisi reminded him of the 2014 Ukrainian uprising that overthrew the Kremlin-friendly government.
Hundreds of Georgians rallied outside the parliament for four days, voicing a pro-European future. Lawmakers this week withdrew a controversial “foreign agent” law that sparked violent clashes between police and protesters.
The demonstrations show turmoil over Georgia’s future as it seeks to join the EU and NATO, fueling Moscow’s frustration.
Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, recognized two separate independent territories in the north of the country as independent states, and placed military bases there after the war.
“There is no doubt that the law on the registration of non-governmental organizations, generally speaking, was used as a pretext to initiate attempts to change the government by force,” Lavrov said.
He said the protests were similar to the “Maidan in Kiev” uprising and were “organized from abroad, of course,” and aimed to “inspire Russia’s borders.”
Critics of the Georgian bill say it resembles a Russian law used to silence opponents.
French President Emmanuel Macron responded to the allegations of foreign influence by saying: free people. “
– Georgia’s “Only Road” –
The Kremlin also criticized the Georgian president’s remarks delivered from the US and accused Washington of fomenting “anti-Russian” sentiment in the Black Sea states.
“You can see where the president of Georgia is addressing the people from,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
This week, President Salome Zurabishvili sent a message of support to protesters from New York during an official visit.
On Friday, in an interview with French news channel LCI, she accused Russia of “attacking and occupying sovereign states” for centuries, adding that “the point is” in Georgian protesters’ messages. He added that there is
“We already have Russian troops at home. That did not prevent Georgia from maintaining its independence and continuing on its way to Europe.”
Zurabishvili met with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Friday and said in a White House statement that the two “welcomed the government’s recent decision to withdraw” the bill.
The two also “discussed the need to ensure that Russia continues to bear the full economic cost of sanctions” over its invasion of Ukraine.
– “I want Europe” –
Georgian parliamentarians rejected the foreign agents bill in the second reading after 1 in 36 parliamentarians supported it.
Imprisoned former leader Mikhail Saakashvili praised the role protesters played in forcing the government to withdraw the bill.
Saakashvili said in a Facebook post, “They had resisted the brutal force used against them admirably.
“Russia, with its brutal oligarchs, is in no position to beat them,” he said, referring to the billionaire founder of the Georgian ruling party who made his fortune in Russia.
On Friday morning, the atmosphere outside the parliament building was festive, with thousands of Georgians whistling, waving red and white flags and holding signs reading “We are Europe.”
Saba Murmyshvili, a 20-year-old student, said: “I am happy that the law has broken and that the Georgian people have won and will continue to fight for the future of Europe.
He said he attended the rally along with some of his college classmates to “keep up the pressure” on authorities.
“We don’t accept anything from Russia. We don’t want to go back to the USSR. It’s simple, we want Europe,” former diplomat Nina Matiashvili, 34, told AFP. I’m here,’ he said.
Georgia, along with Ukraine and Moldova, applied for EU membership days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
EU leaders gave Kiev and Chisinau formal candidate status last June, but said Tbilisi must implement reforms first.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier endorsed Georgia’s push for closer ties with Europe after a phone call with President Zurabisvili.
– “Pro-Western Course” –
Meanwhile, Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, emphasized the motives behind the foreign proxy bill even after parliamentarians rejected the bill.
“It’s a disgrace to be an agent of anyone,” he said.
Opposition parties say the protests will continue because there is no guarantee that “Georgia is firmly on a pro-Western line.”
Georgian authorities face mounting international criticism as democracy is perceived to be in retreat.
However, the ruling party is committed to bidding for Georgia’s EU and NATO membership, enshrined in its constitution, and has said it is supported by 80% of the population, according to opinion polls.
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/georgians-rally-even-as-parliament-scraps-foreign-agent-bill/news-story/fe813d6d3d2e8642fc8b6f0c957780a7 Russia denounces Georgian protests as failed coup