U.S. plans sanctions on Georgian officials over 'Foreign agents' law

Protest against the 'foreign agents' bill on Heroes' Square, Tbilisi, May 2
Protest against the 'foreign agents' bill on Heroes' Square, Tbilisi, May 2

Washington is poised to impose sanctions on Georgian lawmakers, law enforcement officers, and potentially Russian agents involved in advancing a controversial "foreign agents" law, according to a May 20 report by Politico. 

The proposed legislation mirrors laws in Russia that have been criticized for stifling dissent.

A leaked draft bill reveals plans for a new bill, which South Carolina Republican Representative Joe Wilson intends to present to the U.S. Congress. The bill targets Georgian officials accused of "undermining or injuring democracy, human rights, or security in Georgia," potentially subjecting them, along with their family members, to asset freezes and travel bans.

The sanctions would extend to members of Georgian law enforcement and security services who have suppressed protests against the legislation.

On May 15, NATO warned the Georgian government about the implications of the "foreign agents" law, asserting that it conflicts with the nation's aspirations for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

"The Georgian government’s decision to pass this legislation represents a step in the wrong direction," stated NATO spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah.

Dakhlallah also emphasized the importance of democratic freedoms, urging Georgia to "change course and to respect the right to peaceful protest."

Protesting the “Foreign Agents” bill in Georgia

Mass protests erupted across Georgia on April 9 after the ruling Georgian Dream party proposed reintroducing a controversial ‘Foreign Agents’ bill, dubbed the ‘Russian law’, which sparked widespread opposition in 2023.

On April 16, security forces dispersed demonstrators in Tbilisi.

The Georgian legislature passed the bill in its first reading on April 17. The legislation requires non-profit organizations and media receiving more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources to register as ‘organizations acting in the interests of a foreign state.’

The bill must pass three votes in the Georgian parliament to become law.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has vowed to veto the bill.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze stated on April 18 that the bill aims to prevent the “Ukrainization” of the country.

In response, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry countered that the real threat to Georgia is Russification, not “mystical Ukrainization,” and emphasized that derogatory references to Ukraine damage Ukrainian-Georgian relations.

Members of the European Parliament expressed concerns that the bill could hinder Georgia’s aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration.

On April 25, the European Parliament adopted a resolution indicating that the “foreign agents” bill could impact Georgia’s EU accession discussions while the law is in effect.

Clashes broke out between police and protesters near the Georgian parliament on April 30.

President Salome Zourabichvili called for an end to the dispersal of protests in Tbilisi and blamed the government for the unrest.

The Interior Ministry reported that 60 demonstrators were arrested on May 1, facing charges of hooliganism and failing to obey police orders.

Six police officers were injured during the clashes.

Later that day, the Georgian parliament passed the “foreign agents” bill in its second reading.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine