Police in Georgia use tear gas, water cannons to disperse protest against so-called ‘Russian law’

Security forces in Georgia used water cannon, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters outside parliament late on Tuesday, sharply escalating a crackdown after lawmakers debated a “foreign agents” bill which is viewed by the opposition and Western nations as authoritarian and Russian-inspired.

Reuters eyewitnesses saw some police officers physically attack protesters, who threw eggs and bottles at them, before using tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades to force demonstrators from the area outside the Soviet-built parliament building.

Levan Khabeishvili, the leader of Georgia’s largest opposition party, the United National Movement, posted a picture on X with his face bloodied and sporting a black eye. A party official told Reuters Khabeishvili was beaten by police after disappearing from central Tbilisi.

After being dispersed from parliament, around 2,000 protesters continued to block Tbilisi’s main Rustaveli Avenue, barricading it with café tables and rubbish bins. Some shouted “Slaves” and “Russians” at police.

Earlier, riot police used pepper spray and batons to clear some protesters who were trying to prevent lawmakers from leaving the back entrance of parliament.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, an avowed foe of the government whose powers are mostly ceremonial, said in a post on X the crackdown had been “totally unwarranted, unprovoked and out of proportion,” and that the protests had been peaceful.

The bill has heightened divisions in the deeply polarized southern Caucasus country, setting the ruling Georgian Dream party against a protest movement backed by opposition groups, civil society, celebrities and the figurehead president.

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