The de facto leader of occupied Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, went to Minsk, where he was hosted by the authoritarian leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka. Lukashenka greeted the guest from the Russia-occupied region, which is until now formally recognized by Minsk as a part of Georgia. Ominously for Tbilisi, the official Belarus outlets referred to Bzhania as “President of Abkhazia,” a distinction they previously withheld, even as Lukashenka visited Abkhazia last September. Georgia’s President and the foreign ministry condemned the meeting, calling it an attempt to legitimize the Russian occupation regime.
Mikheil Saakashvili’s ill health turns about the only thing the West and the authoritarian Lukashenka can agree on. “This situation does not look good… he was president, after all,” Lukashenka was quoted as saying about Saakashvili.
In a lame effort to disguise the anti-democratic nature of their proposal to tag civil society groups as media as “foreign agents,” the authors of that draft from the People’s Party submitted a more radical proposal. They say the new bill is “copied word by word” from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, as it is known. The Georgian Dream party went along with the charade and promptly condemned the new proposal as anti-democratic. They are ready to bring the old – no less damaging – proposal to the Parliament floor by Feb. 27 and vote it in by April at the latest, the parliament’s internal schedule suggests.
“The Russian law is not the will of Georgia,” declared almost 300 non-governmental organizations and media outlets in a joint statement on the “foreign agents” draft law. The proposed legislation is sought to undermine EU integration, democracy, and the work of civil society organizations, the joint statement reads. Among others, the statement was signed by the UN Association of Georgia (founder of Civil.ge).
As anti-western campaigns continue to mount in Georgia, its citizens remain strongly pro-Western, and the majority do not believe that concessions will help avoid war with Russia, a Caucasus Research Resource Center survey revealed. 54% of the respondents believe that Georgia will benefit from joining the European Union and NATO, citing the EU membership as a boost to the country’s economic development and NATO membership as a precondition to restoring territorial integrity, according to the survey. Polls also suggest that 71% of respondents consider NATO membership risky. Nevertheless, 60% of respondents say that Georgia should keep to its Western orientation despite the war-related risks from Russia.