During anti-government protests in Georgia, the police again used violence against demonstrators on Thursday night. According to eyewitness reports, the pro-European demonstrators surrounded the parliament of the South Caucasus republic in Tbilisi.
Some tried to enter the building. As on the evening before, the police used tear gas and water cannons, as Georgian television stations showed. According to media reports, parliament speaker Schalva Papuashvili called on the demonstrators to remain peaceful. According to the newspaper "Georgia Today" there were again several arrests.
"Inspired by the Kremlin"
The protest was sparked by a controversial draft law: Similar to Russia, the Georgian leadership wants to classify media and non-governmental organizations that receive money from abroad as foreign agents.
According to US State Department spokesman Ned Price, the "Kremlin-inspired" bill "is inconsistent with the clear desire of the Georgian people for European integration and democratic development." Implementing the plans would damage Georgia's relationship with its strategic partners and call into question the country's "Euro-Atlantic future," Price said yesterday (local time) in Washington.
According to observers, between 10,000 and 15,000 people had gathered peacefully in Parliament by early Wednesday evening. A reporter from the German Press Agency reported that there were more than on Tuesday. According to official information, the police in the South Caucasus republic arrested 66 demonstrators during the protests the day before.
Demonstrators wave the EU flag
Also yesterday the demonstrators waved Georgian and Ukrainian flags as well as the blue star flag of the EU. Georgians also sang the Ukrainian anthem in solidarity with Ukraine attacked by Russia. During the later street battles, the police pushed the remaining demonstrators away, who in turn threw stones and bottles.
Human rights activists from Freedom House have expressed alarm at the violence in Tbilisi. "The fundamental right to peaceful assemblies must be protected against Molotov cocktails, tear gas and water cannons," the non-governmental organization demanded on Twitter. She urged the Georgian government to reconsider the controversial bill.
The small ex-Soviet republic of Georgia on the Black Sea with 3.7 million inhabitants has long been under pressure from its large neighbor Russia. Moscow also supports the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The current leadership of the Georgian Dream party is pursuing a more pro-Russian course. However, the majority of Georgians want their country to become a member of the EU and NATO. They fear that this opportunity will be destroyed by authoritarian rules like those in Moscow. President Salome Zurabishvili has backed the demonstrators and announced that she will not sign the controversial agent law.