Anti-Putin fury erupts in Georgia as protesters smash windows

Georgia: Protestors break windows at the Parliament

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Georgian protesters in their tens of thousands have gathered in the capital, smashing the windows of the Parliamentary headquarters and fighting local enforcement officers as the country erupts into chaos. The nation’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, rushed through its first reading of a “Kremlin-inspired” bill on Tuesday two days before the debate was scheduled to take place, causing carnage in Tbilisi as citizens fear their government is severing links to the West at a time of increased tensions with Russia. The legislation, which looks to problematise foreign-funding in local news outlets and NGOs, comes at a critical juncture for Georgia as they look to implement reforms demanded of them to become a formal candidate for membership to the European Union.

Protests that erupted on Tuesday evening following the rushed first reading of the “foreign-agent law” have intensified on Wednesday.

The streets of Tbilisi around the Parliamentary headquarters are awash with tear gas, enraged protesters and riot police as the local authorities struggle to contain the chaos.

In a video released on social media, one Georgian protester can be seen furiously punching through the window to the back of the Parliamentary building as police let off a water hose in the street behind him.

Another video of the front of the building shows what appears to be thousands of protesters crammed into the square, screaming “Russians!” at the MPs inside.

Georgian civil activists and opposition representatives have blocked both entrances to the parliament building, chanting: “No to Russian law!”, “Russians!” and “Slaves!”

Although the ruling Georgian Dream party enjoys a comfortable majority in Parliament, the country’s NGOs and many major news media outlets side with the opposition.

The “foreign influence” draft law is widely seen by them as an attempt to replicate similar Russian laws to exert pressure on dissidence.

In Russia, a foreign agent law is often used to shut down organisations and news outlets that report voices critical of the government.

The European Union has warned Georgia that by adopting this law it would harm its prospects of ever joining the bloc.

Georgia’s opposition regularly accuses Georgian Dream of being in cahoots with Russia, though Western diplomats maintain that the party remains committed to a pro-West stance.

International organisations have voiced concern over the draft law, saying it runs against Georgia’s democratic development.

While Georgia’s president, Salome Zurabishvili, has said she would veto the bill, Parliament can override presidential vetoes.

The authors of the draft legislation say it’s needed for the transparency of the work of entities financed by representatives of foreign states.

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The European Union has warned Georgia that by adopting this law it would harm its prospects of ever joining the bloc.

Khatia Dekanoidze, a member of the opposition National Movement Rally, told parliament: “Everyone should understand that saving our country, saving our young generation, saving our future lies only through the European path.”

Freedom of the media and of civil society are two prerequisites of joining the Unio

Georgia shares a border with Russia and Chechnya, the Kremlin-affiliated breakaway state. It has also been invaded by Russian forces this century.

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