The Russian Law

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Georgian lawmakers this week approved a law targeting foreign-funded organizations and media amid massive ongoing protests, with analysts saying the move could suppress anti-corruption advocates and jeopardize the country’s bid to join the European Union (EU), Politico reported.

Protesters have called the bill the “Russian law” because it draws inspiration from legislation used by Moscow to silence dissent. Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, crowds gathered in the capital Tbilisi waving Georgian, Ukrainian, and European flags and hitting pots and pans. The demonstration was met with a violent police response, wrote RFE/RL.

The so-called “foreign agents” law, proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, passed in an 84-30 vote following a series of clashes between lawmakers inside the chamber.

Under the new law, non-governmental organizations and independent media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from outside Georgia will have to register as bodies “bearing the interest of a foreign power.”

They will be placed under the scrutiny of the Justice Ministry and may be asked to share sensitive information. Non-compliance can be sanctioned with a $9,400 fine, the BBC explained.

Georgian Dream argued the legislation would promote transparency, CNN reported. Opponents, however, have described it as a threat to Georgia’s aspirations to join the EU, steering the South Caucasian nation closer to Russia.

The EU granted Georgia candidate status last December, but Brussels has warned the “foreign agents” law was “incompatible with European values.”

On Wednesday, EU officials told the Financial Times that the bloc was ready to indefinitely postpone talks with Georgia over its EU bid, should the law be enforced.

President Salomé Zourabichvili, meanwhile, vowed not to sign the bill into law. Even so, a simple majority in parliament would override her veto.

Moscow argued on Tuesday that criticism of the bill signaled “interference in Georgia’s internal affairs.” Since 2008, Russia has occupied 20 percent of Georgian territory.

With elections set in October, opposition lawmaker Tinatin Bokuchava told Politico the turmoil over the controversial law could drive regime change. “That’s the European way,” Zourabichvili said.

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