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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Ukrainian President Zelenskiy Backs Georgia Demonstrators in Fight for ‘Democratic Success’

More than 60 demonstrators were detained outside the parliament in Tbilisi

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

GEORGIA: Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for “democratic success” in Georgia as thousands of demonstrators gathered against legislation that could undermine Tbilisi’s efforts to join the EU and that critics have likened to a law in Russia that has been used to suppress dissent.

“There is no Ukrainian who would not wish success to our friendly Georgia. Democratic success. European success,” said Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in a Wednesday evening address.

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“We want to be in the European Union, and we will be there. We want Georgia to be in the European Union, and I am sure it will be there. We want Moldova to be in the European Union, and I am sure it will be there. All the free nations of Europe deserve this,” he continued.

On Wednesday, hundreds of police officers, many of whom were armed with riot shields, used water cannons and tear gas in clashes with demonstrators during the second night of turmoil in Georgia’s capital. More than 60 demonstrators were detained outside the parliament in Tbilisi.

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Thousands had earlier marched in the streets to protest against a proposed law that would require any organisation getting more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face hefty fines. The law is supported by the Georgian Dream Party, which is in power. The Russian authorities have used comparable legislation since 2012 to stifle media and NGOs funded by the West.

Outside the parliament, demonstrators waving the Georgian, EU, and Ukrainian flags chanted, “No to the Russian law.” Protestors also blocked Rustaveli Avenue in the centre of the city after a call from the major opposition party, the United National Movement, to congregate there.

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Anti-Russian sentiment is general in Georgia, a former part of the Soviet Union, due to long-standing Russian support for two separatist provinces and a short Russian invasion of the nation in 2008. 85% of Georgians favor joining the EU, and many Georgians support Ukraine, according to recent polls.

In a statement, Sven Mikser and Maria Kaljurand, two of the most important people in EU-Georgia relations, said that the proposed law “goes directly against the Georgian authorities’ stated goal of getting candidate status for EU membership.”

“The new law’s purpose, under the guise of promoting transparency, is to stigmatise the work of civil society organisations and media,” the statement continued.

In his Wednesday speech, Zelenskiy expressed his gratitude for Georgian support for Ukraine. He said, “I want to thank everyone who has been holding Ukrainian flags in the squares and streets of Georgia these days. I want to express gratitude for our national anthem that was played in Tbilisi. This is respect for Ukraine, and I want to express my sincere respect for Georgia.”

Salome Zourabichvili, the president of Georgia, stated on Tuesday night that she intended to veto the legislation if it came before her. Her veto can be overridden by the assembly, though.

On Wednesday, protest organisers urged protesters to block lawmakers from entering the building until the policy is withdrawn. The debate was scheduled to take place on Thursday, but local media claimed that it had been postponed. Speaker Shalva Papuashvili on Wednesday called for the measure to be evaluated by the Vienna Committee on Constitutional Law of the Council of Europe, which is the continent’s top human rights organization.

Also Read: China Conducts Research on Ukraine War, Worries over US Missiles and Starlink


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