Parliament endorsed both versions of Russia-inspired draft laws on foreign agents at the heated joint session of the committees on foreign affairs and defense/security. Scuffles delayed the session as some MPs from the opposition were manhandled out of the hall, and representatives of some CSOs and media were barred from entering. The hours-long session occurred at heightened tones, with bouts of verbal acrimony. Media has filled the corridors while civic activists rallied outside, hurling the words “Russians,” “slaves,” and “traitors” at the ruling majority members. After the session, the police reported detaining four. By the end of the day, the number of the detained reportedly grew to 36. Several journalists were also detained and promptly released. Both draft laws will go on to be reviewed by the key legal affairs committee on Monday.
“The activities of all those political parties contradicting the principles of the constitution, the path chosen by our country and its population, should be declared unconstitutional and banned,” President Salome Zurabishvili said in an official statement. President Zurabishvili reminded the Constitution obliges the constitutional bodies, including parliament, to take all measures to ensure the full integration of Georgia into the European Union.
Anyone who votes for the draft law on foreign agents will be responsible for potentially jeopardizing the country’s Euro-Atlantic future, the US State Department spokesman Ned Price stated, repeating the recent remarks of the US Ambassador, Kelly Degnan. This was the third time Price has spoken about the “foreign agent” law since February 16. USAID Administrator Samatha Power also called upon the parliament “to drop these proposed laws.”
MPs from former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s “For Georgia” party tabled a draft law on “Protection from the influence of the occupying power – the Russian Federation.” This move sought to counter the two Russian-inspired draft laws on “foreign agents” submitted by the ruling majority. However, it is unlikely that this legal initiative will gain support among other opposition parties.
Tbilisi Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision, denying the motion to release or defer ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s prison term due to his health condition. Tbilisi Court of Appeals considered the case without the attendance of Saakashvili’s attorneys, a lawyer of ex-president Shalva Khachapuridze informed. He said they are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Georgia’s annual inflation rate stood at 8.1% in February, while consumer prices showed a slight – 0.3% drop, the National Statistics Office (Geostat) reported. The annual inflation rate was primarily driven by price changes in food and non-alcoholic beverages (14% increase) and water, electricity, gas, and other fuels (12.4% increase). Generally, the inflation rate is 5.6% lower than last year’s period.