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The Daily Beat: 27 February

The government has decreed that the Ukrainians will be allowed to stay in Georgia for two years without needing to apply for a visa. This alleviates concerns over the expiry of the usual one-year grace period for the refugees that entered Georgia after the start of the Russian aggression in February 2022.

In an uncharacteristically straightforward statement, the UN office in Georgia expressed its “profound concern” with the Russia-inspired draft law on “Foreign Agents,” which would effectively stigmatize most of Georgia’s CSOs and online media as spies. In a statement published on Sunday, the UN said the legislation backed by the ruling majority would impede the work of civil society and media and undermine the strategic cooperation framework that the Georgian government signed with the UN.

Ambassadors of European states like Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden also lambasted the Russia-inspired draft law, expressing their disapproval and criticism in public tweets. In a late evening statement, the spokesperson for EU High Representative decried the draft law as “inconsistent” with Georgia’s membership aspirations and contrary to EU norms and values.

The domestic pressure continues to mount as over 60 media outlets, including this newspaper, denounced the draft law in a joint statement released Monday. We believe the proposed draft intends to silence critical media and prevent civil society organizations from highlighting cases of corruption, injustice, and poverty in the country. “It is confirmed by the consequences of the similar law adopted in Russia years ago – civil society and media organizations were closed, while journalists became victims of persecution,” the statement reads.

The public defender’s office published the latest conclusion of medical experts on Saakashvili’s health condition, highlighting the significant deterioration of the patient’s condition, saying the health risks become critical. The EU Ambassador, Pawel Herczynski, and the Swedish Ambassador, Ulrik Tideström, acting on behalf of the EU Presidency, delivered a demarche on behalf of all EU member states to the justice minister. 

On February 25, the flags flew half-mast on Georgia’s public buildings as the country marked the 102nd anniversary of the fall of Tbilisi to the Russian Red Army in 1921. Prime minister, Speaker, and defense minister visited the site of the fierce battles near Tbilisi and laid a wreath at the cadets’ memorial.

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The commemoration of the Russian occupation was not without controversy. A social media battle erupted early in the morning of February 25 over the Prime Minister’s commemorative Facebook post, which marked the “tragic events” without ever mentioning Russia. The offended Georgian internauts stormed the site only to find their posts hidden and then themselves blocked from accessing the government’s social media page. Internet memes proliferated as an apparent troll army with Vietnamese-sounding last names started to mark the ‘likes’ to outnumber citizens’ “angry” reactions.


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