Public Protests Intensify Against Georgian Dream ‘Foreign Agent’ Law

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 63

(Source: Screenshot from video on )

Executive Summary:

  • Tens of thousands of Georgians participated in a countrywide protest against the ruling Georgian Dream party’s reintroduction and attempt to pass the repressive and controversial “Transparency of Foreign Influence” law.
  • Georgia’s Western partners have actively supported these protests and warned Georgian officials that the final adoption of the law would close the path to integration with the European Union.
  • The Georgian Dream government seems prepared to take risks to prevent the “instrumentalization” of the nongovernmental sector before the October parliamentary elections.

On April 17, the Georgian parliament’s ruling majority passed the controversial “Transparency of Foreign Influence” law. According to the measure, all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) financed by Western donors are required to register as “organizations acting in the interests of external forces” (, April 3;, April 17;, accessed April 24). Eighty-three members of parliament from the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party supported the law, which provoked sharp criticism from democratic forces within Georgia and the country’s Western partners. The opposition boycotted the measure due to its similarities with Russian law and left the chamber during the vote (Ekho Kavkaza, April 17). The law is anticipated to be passed during the third reading planned for May 17. Since GD initiated the new bill on April 3, the public protest movement has grown with the number of demonstrations and those participating in the protests on the rise (, April 3; see EDM, April 9). The dichotomy of Western condemnation of the law and Russian support indicates the true driving force for the movement. The level of protest reflects the Georgian people’s growing frustration with GD’s governance and their opposition to growing Russian influence.

The reintroduction of the “foreign agents” measure has already exacerbated some societal tensions. On April 15, during discussion on the draft law in the Georgian legislature’s Legal Affairs Committee, Aleko Elisashvili, an opposition lawmaker from the “Citizens” party, punched Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of GD’s parliamentary majority (, April 15). Immediately after the assault, Elisashvili was severely beaten by deputies from the ruling party. Following the incident, Elisashvili stated, “They are dragging us to Russia. … It is not time to sit at home, we must drive them out.” Many in Georgian society were not surprised by Elisahvili’s behavior, as last year, after fierce protests, the GD government promised to never again introduce a similar bill to parliament (Radiotavisupleba, April 15).

That same day, police detained 14 people during a mass rally against the law (Radiotavisupleba, April 16). The arrests, however, did not deter protesters. On April 16, another demonstration occurred near the parliament building while the legislature was discussing the so-called “Russian law.” Riot police used pepper spray to disperse demonstrators, and eleven people were detained (, April 17). Additionally, several journalists reported being chased and beaten by police during the rallies (, April 19).

In the days that followed, thousands of peaceful demonstrators demanded the repeal of the law while waving Georgian, EU, and Ukrainian flags. Messages such as “Yes to Europe, No to Russian Law” were held aloft, conveying the population’s general sentiment. Demonstrators marched to the government administration building demanding the release of protest detainees and insisting on a meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze (, April 17).

The rallies and protests in Tbilisi seek to convince Georgia’s Western partners of the need to react harshly to the adoption of the repressive law. They also hope to warn the Georgian authorities of the serious consequences of such a law on social stability. Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili announced her readiness to veto the law and appealed to Western leaders to intervene in the situation (, April 16). She even went so far as to call GD the “Russian Dream” party (, April 13). At the same time, the Georgian president pardoned Lazare Grigoriadis, who was sentenced to nine years in prison for his connection with the March 2023 protests against the original iteration of the “Russian law” (, April 12). He was accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at police and setting fire to a police car and was found guilty of harming a police officer and destroying state property, though little evidence was provided for the conviction. Along with pardoning Grigoriadis, Zourabichvili expressed support for all Georgian citizens who protest the law this year.

On the one hand, many Western leaders have actively expressed disappointment with the reintroduction of the bill. On April 16, European Council President Charles Michel tweeted, “The Georgian people have chosen the European path, and in response, the European Council granted Georgia the candidate status last December. Let me be clear: the draft Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence is not consistent with Georgia’s EU aspiration and its accession trajectory and will bring Georgia further away from the EU and not closer” (;, April 16). US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, EU High Representative Josep Borrell, and EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi also expressed their concern in diplomatic but harsh terms (, April 17, 18 [1], [2]; Diplomatic Service of the European Union, April 17; US State Department, April 18).

On the other hand, Russian leaders have voiced their support for GD’s law. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “In Georgia, demonstrations portrayed President Salome Zourabichvili as a champion of free speech, even though they have the most lenient law. In the United States, France, Poland, and in many EU countries, similar laws exist” (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 19). Vyacheslav Volodin, chair of the Russian State Duma and member of the security council, and Dmitry Medvedev, former president, now deputy chair of the Security Council, saluted the reintroduction of the law as necessary to tamp down Western influence in the country. In 2008, Medvedev had ordered the bombing of Georgian towns and villages as well as the occupation of Georgian territory by Russian forces (, April 17, 18).

Russian support for the law coming further fuels the opposition in their work against its passing, underscoring fears that it is Moscow’s next step in occupying Georgia. Western condemnation of the law provides pro-European forces within Georgia a strong foreign support system for their fight against the GD government. The paradox of the situation is that, when friends are worried, and enemies are happy, it only strengthens the determination of Georgian opposition forces to fight against the “Russian law” and the Kremlin’s influence.