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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Georgia: Violence again at demonstration in Tbilisi

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For the second night in a row there are protests in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, and the government reacts with harshness. It’s a conflict similar to that in Ukraine: is it going in the direction of Russia or Europe?

During anti-government protests in Georgia in the South Caucasus, the police again used violence against demonstrators on Wednesday evening. According to eyewitness reports, the pro-European demonstrators surrounded the parliament in Tbilisi; some also tried to enter the building. As a result, the strong police forces used tear gas and water cannons, as the evening before, as live images from Georgian television stations showed.

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The protest was sparked by a controversial draft law: Similar to Russia, the Georgian leadership wants to classify media and non-governmental organizations that receive money from abroad as foreign agents.

According to observers, between 10,000 and 15,000 people gathered peacefully at Parliament by early Wednesday evening. A reporter from the German Press Agency reported that there were more than on Tuesday. The demonstrators waved Georgian and Ukrainian flags as well as the blue star flag of the EU. Georgians also sang the Ukrainian anthem in solidarity with Ukraine attacked by Russia. During the later street battles, the police pushed the remaining demonstrators away, who in turn threw stones and bottles.

Print from Moscow

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 breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The current leadership of the Georgian Dream party is pursuing a more pro-Russian course. However, the majority of Georgians want their country to become a member of the EU and NATO. They fear that this opportunity will be destroyed by authoritarian rules like those in Moscow. President Salome Zurabishvili has backed the demonstrators and announced that she will not sign the controversial agent law.

In his video speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the demonstrators in Tbilisi for their solidarity. The Ukrainians wished the friendly Georgians success. “We want to belong to the European Union and we will,” he said on Wednesday. “We want Georgia to be part of the European Union and I’m sure it will.” The same applies to the Republic of Moldova. “All the free peoples of Europe deserve this.”

Source: Stern

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