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The Daily Beat: 20 March

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed the west for preparing the next color revolution in Georgia by supporting and financing NGOs in South Caucasus. He ruled out any cooperation with the West in the South Caucasus, saying that these western-funded NGOs are trying to discredit Russia and Iran, undermining the regional cooperation between three smaller states and three regional powers – Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Georgia is hesitant to join, even though Lavrov said the door for Tbilisi remains open.

The Prime Minister replaced Mikhail Chkhenkeli as Minister of Education and Science with Giorgi Amilakhvari, chairman of the ruling party’s parliamentary committee on education and science. According to the government administration, Chkhenkeli will continue working as the chairman of the International Advisory Board of Kutaisi International University – Ivanishvili-funded project. Amilakhvari is one of the 76 MPs of the ruling majority who voted for the Russian-style bill that would have marked NGOs and media as “foreign agents.” The bill was overturned due to mass protests, where the youth played a decisive role. The appointment is thought to be aimed at re-enforcing the control of the ruling party over the education system. This cabinet reshuffle was preceded by large-scale protests against the “foreign agents” bill, with the active involvement of students. 

Some senior ruling majority lawmakers are considering quitting the parliament after having refrained from voting for the “foreign agents” bill. The speaker confirmed that Irakli Kovzanadze, chairman of the parliament’s budget and finance committee, has already filed the request to leave but said the reasons were “personal.” Two other Georgian Dream lawmakers – former Armed Forces’ chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Vladimir Chachibaia and former health minister Davit Sergeenko confirmed to the media that they also plan to resign. The vacant seats will be filled by the GD members from the proportional party list.

Speaker of the parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, spoke offensively about protesters against the “foreign agents” bill, including the former public defender and youth representatives, accusing them of “hate campaigns”, “fascism,” and “attempted segregation.” The speaker claimed it was the GEL1000 payoff that motivated the activists, which was paid off by the United National Movement. President Salome Zurabishvili slammed the speaker’s comments, calling it “unacceptable.” President also reminded Papuashvili that his high position does not grant him the right to insult citizens.

A “May Student Movement” statement claimed the government uses various methods to neutralize and intimidate the youth who participated in the protests. According to the statement, police entered a student dormitory in “Bagebi” to collect personal data. The movement called on Tbilisi State University and its professors to take a stand. The university claimed that such checks were routine.

Newly elected public defender Levan Ioseliani visited ailing ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili in a hospital ward where he is serving a prison term. “On my part, I have confirmed that all the health monitoring mechanisms at the disposal of the public defender, including the medical council, will be maintained, and this process will not be hampered in any way. I also confirmed that the Public Defender would continue to supervise his health within the scope of his mandate,” Levan Ioseliani said following the meeting with Saakashvili.    


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