Americans Detained in Tbilisi Amid Protests Over Russia-Inspired Law

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Two Americans, Russian Detained in Georgia Amid Foreign Agents Law Protests

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Peaceful Protest Turns Tense

Two American citizens and a Russian were among 20 individuals detained during violent protests in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, on Monday. The protests erupted over a controversial “foreign agents” bill that sparked a political crisis.

Georgian opposition parties had called for a night-long protest outside parliament on Sunday to prevent lawmakers from entering on Monday. However, authorities, led by Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, vowed to push ahead with the law.

On Monday morning, witnesses reported that police forcibly removed protesters from parliament’s service entrances, leading to scuffles.

Controversial Foreign Agents Bill

The “foreign agents” legislation requires organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register with the government. Supporters of the bill argue that it enhances the transparency of NGO funding and protects Georgia from foreign interference.

Critics condemn the bill as authoritarian and inspired by Russia’s 2012 law, which has been used to suppress dissent. Western countries, including the European Union (EU), have also expressed concerns, stating that it could hinder Georgia’s integration with the bloc.

A Crossroads for Georgia

The dispute over the bill has become symbolic of Georgia’s choice between pursuing closer ties with the West or forging stronger relations with Russia. If passed, the bill could jeopardize Georgia’s status as a candidate for EU membership.

Highly Contested Region

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Georgia has historically had close relations with the West, but it also shares a border with Russia. The region has been a site of tension and conflict for centuries, and the recent conflict in Ukraine has raised the stakes once again.

Russian Gains in Ukraine

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Moscow’s forces have made significant gains in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv in recent weeks. The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed the “liberation” of several villages, as the country aims to create a “buffer zone” to protect its border from retaliatory strikes.

Ukrainian officials have mobilized troops to counter the Russian advance, but the West remains concerned about the potential for further escalation.

Shoigu and the Kremlin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has replaced longtime Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with Andrei Belousov. Shoigu, who has led the ministry since 2012, will now serve as secretary of the Security Council.

Belousov’s appointment is a deviation from tradition, as he comes from an economic background. However, it reflects Putin’s drive to strengthen Russia’s economy and increase defense spending amid heightened tensions with the West.

Stark Reminder of Conflict

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Meanwhile, 19 people have been killed and dozens injured in missile strikes on the Russian border region of Belgorod. Moscow alleges Ukrainian responsibility for the attack, which targeted a residential building and left several dead.

LA News Center continues to monitor the situation in Georgia, Ukraine, and Russia, providing updates as they emerge. Stay informed and engaged with this evolving story.

Data sourced from: cnbc.com