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Georgian President’s Veto of ‘Russian Law’ Sets Stage for Government’s Showdown with Western Partners

President Salome Zurabishvil tonight announced her veto of the ruling Georgian Dream party’s controversial law on ‘foreign influence’ almost two weeks earlier than expected.

Nadia Peradze has fled Georgia after being warned the ruling party, Georgian Dream, were planning to imprison her under its latest crackdown. Photo: X/@xonoda

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Nata Peradze made a name for herself earlier in January after throwing paint on a new religious icon featuring Joseph Stalin at Tbilisi’s Sameba Cathedral. The late Soviet despot’s appearance at one of the Georgian Orthodox Church’s principal seats of power representing, for the career activist, a symbol of her country’s backward spiral into authoritarianism.

Tonight, Peradze confirmed to Byline Times she has now fled Georgia amid signs of that steady spiral having since accelerated to a dizzying spin. Sources had informed her the ruling Georgian Dream party were allegedly planning to arrest her for plotting a coup, following her role in the ongoing protests against the government’s controversial ‘Russian Law’.

Critics say the draft law, which requires independent media and NGOs receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as ‘agents of foreign influence’, represents an analogue of measures used by the Kremlin to crush dissent since the launch of Putin’s war in Ukraine.

As such, the EU has warned the bill’s passage into law will put an end to the country’s prospects of one day joining the bloc, with the massive resulting demonstrations testament to the level of support for accession from roughly 90% of the Georgian public. The United States, too, has promised a comprehensive package of sanctions and freezes to government aid should the measures go ahead. 


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To grasp how Georgia, where more than a fifth of territory has been occupied by Russian forces since the fall of the Soviet Union, arrived at this pivotal moment in its independent history, it is crucial to understand the overwhelming control over public life exerted by Georgian Dream’s oligarch founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili.  

Byline Times has previously spoken to sources with access to the billionaire businessman’s inner circle. The party has apparently reintroduced their ‘foreign influence’ bill, after a disastrous abortive first attempt to push it through last March, because Ivanishvili believes he is already under de-facto sanctions from the West for his longstanding ties to powerful Russian interests. 

The measures, these sources say, will allow Ivanishvili to shield his assets from watchdog scrutiny as he prepares to move his vast offshore assets into Georgia, so as to protect his fortune in anticipation of substantive future action by the US and EU. 

Events to date offer a grim foreshadowing of what may be to come should the bill, which sailed comfortably through its third reading in parliament earlier on Tuesday, indeed pass into law. In the midst of a mounting Belarusian-style crackdown, dozens of government critics have been savagely beaten by riot police, special forces and titushky (hired street thugs), while hundreds of others have received menacing anonymous phone calls, or woken to find their profiles plastered all over the streets on posters decrying them as ‘enemies of the people’.

How the Georgian ‘Foreign Agents Bill’ May Cost it Everything its People Have Ever Dreamed Of – And Benefit No One But Russia

Georgian Dream’s ‘Russian-style’ law has prompted strong statements of concern from the UK, US and EU with critics saying it is an attempt to muzzle the media and NGOs – it may also end Georgia’s hopes of joining the EU

Against a backdrop of deepening civil turmoil and growing international outcry, Georgian Dream had begun to show faint signs of willingness to come to the table with EU and US representatives over the proposed law.

Parliamentary speaker Shalva Papuashvili said last week that should President Salome Zurabishvili (herself fervently pro-European, and a leading figure in talks to establish a new popular front against Georgian Dream ahead of elections in October) insist on negotiations as part of her anticipated veto of the bill, then the legislative body would undertake to meet with Western partners provided they offered “acceptable recommendations.” 

However, it has since come to light that revisions were quietly made to the bill’s provisions ahead of the most recent vote, granting authorities an alarming range of invasive new powers to use against the law’s targets. While the original draft covered only organisations, it now includes penalties of up to 5,000 GEL (or £1,435, in a country where the average monthly salary is £371) for ‘foreign-funded’ individuals who do not provide information requested of them. 

Theoretically, this could extend not only to personal files, emails and phone messages but also, according to constitutional lawyers, any data otherwise subject to strict legal protection, including medical records and even details of a person’s sexual relationships and preferences. 


Secret Talks on Opposition ‘Coalition’ as Georgian Dream Moves Forward with ‘Foreign Influence’ Law Amid Violent Protests

A number of pro-Western but otherwise fragmented Georgian political opposition groups may put aside bad blood to campaign as one ahead of elections in October

Following these developments, Zurabishvili elected to announce her wholesale rejection of the law not in two weeks’ time, as originally expected, but [earlier this evening/last night]. Her supporters have since praised it as a prudent and calculated decision, despite being little more than a technicality in legislative terms, as it leaves little to no further room for Georgian Dream to manoeuvre with talks of negotiating or otherwise diluting their proposals. 

And with that, the stage is now set for perhaps the most important decision Georgia’s government has faced since the ‘foreign agents’ furore began more than a month ago. Whether to bow out with what little remains of their political credibility both at home and abroad, or to hold fast on their present course, barreling forward against the mounting likelihood of international sanctions and taking the Georgian people’s dreams of EU accession with them.

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