The US stirred up protests against the “foreign agents” bill in Tbilisi, a senior Russian official has said
The US opposed Georgia’s “foreign agents” bill because Washington does not want the country to have political sovereignty, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, said on Friday.
He argued that the legislation, which was withdrawn after protests and clashes with police in Tbilisi, was aimed at limiting Washington’s ability to meddle in Georgia’s affairs.
“Washington has used the tools of soft power to lead people to the streets. The Georgian authorities were forced to submit – not to the will of the people, but to the United States,” Volodin claimed in a post in his Telegram channel.
The politician said the bill was “unacceptable for the US” because it would have “restricted Washington’s influence on the country’s internal political affairs.”
“With its withdrawal by the parliament, Georgia has lost the chance for sovereignty,” Volodin said.
On Friday, Georgian Dream and People’s Power, two of the country’s ruling parties, withdrew the Transparency of Foreign Influence Bill, also dubbed the ‘Foreign Agents Law.’ They said the bill had led to “divisions in society” and that its intent and purpose has been distorted by “a machine of lies.”
The proposed law would have required individuals, NGOs and media outlets that receive 20% or more of their funding from abroad to register as “an agent of foreign influence” with the Georgian Justice Ministry, according to Reuters. Offenders would have faced fines and up to five years in prison for failing to comply.
The bill was condemned by Washington, the EU and NATO. US State Department spokesman Ned Price voiced concerns about “the potential implications of this law for freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia” and warned that its adoption “could potentially undermine Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.”
Price later welcomed the decision to withdraw the draft law and urged MPs to “officially retract this bill and not to further this type of legislation.”
Proponents of the bill argued that it resembled the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a 1938 law that requires individuals and organizations to register as “foreign agents.” Opponents, however, claimed that the bill was inspired by a similar law in Russia that was passed in 2012.