Georgian police push away protesters ahead of debate over ‘foreign agents’ bill, Russia’s TASS | reports WIBQ The talk station

(Reuters) – Georgian police have started pushing away protesters who held a nighttime rally outside parliament in Tbilisi before MPs debated a law on “foreign agents” that has sparked a political crisis, the Russian news agency reported TASS on Monday.

Georgian Prime Minister Iraqi Kobakhidze vowed on Sunday to move forward with the bill after opponents of the law gathered in one of the largest protests since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Georgian opposition called on opponents of the bill to protest throughout the night outside parliament to prevent MPs from entering on Monday, when they are due to begin debating the third reading of the bill.

TASS reported, citing witnesses, that police began pushing protesters away from the service entrances to the parliament building, leading to some scuffles.

The “foreign agents” law requires organizations that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence or face fines.

Western countries and the Georgian opposition condemn it as authoritarian and Russian-inspired. Critics compare it to Russia’s 2012 “foreign agents” law, which persecutes critics of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

The dispute over the bill is now seen as crucial to whether Georgia, which has traditionally enjoyed good relations with the West, continues its push for membership in the European Union and NATO or instead develops ties with Russia.

The EU, which granted Georgia candidate status in December, has repeatedly said the draft law could jeopardize Tbilisi’s further integration into the bloc.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne. Editing by Gerry Doyle)