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There is no temptation to return to Russia, Georgian President Zourabichvili says

The President of Georgia.
The President of Georgia. Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Valérie Gauriat
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This article was originally published in French

In an exclusive interview with Euronews, Georgian President Salomé Zourabichvili discussed vetoing the controversial foreign agents bill, police brutality and what might happen in Georgia's upcoming parliamentary election.

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In an exclusive interview with Euronews, Georgian President Salomé Zourabichvili discussed her plan to veto the law on foreign influence. However, she acknowledged that despite her veto, the law will likely pass through the Georgian parliament.

"This law will pass. The veto will be overridden, or it will be amended marginally and without interest. So the important thing now is to get on with the elections," said Georgian President Salomé Zourabichvili.

Demonstrations with thousands of participants against the legislation, dubbed the "Russian law", have been ongoing for over a month. 

The president has condemned what she described as violence perpetrated by police forces against the demonstrators.

Although the protests are largely peaceful, reports have emerged on social media alleging instances of protesters being subjected to police beatings.

"These acts of brutality are not the work of the police, who are behaving like any other police force," Zourabichvili said, "but of special forces who have police registration but no identification."

Zourabichvili voiced her concerns that official inquiries into potential police violence might face challenges due to the nature of the brutality.

"Investigations and inquiries into the perpetrators of the brutality are not possible. So we're in a situation that could escalate into violence at any moment," she said. 

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, center, attends a public rally in support of Georgia's EU aspirations in Tbilisi, Georgia, on June 16, 2022.
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, center, attends a public rally in support of Georgia's EU aspirations in Tbilisi, Georgia, on June 16, 2022.AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov

She added that Georgia's parliamentary elections, scheduled for October, will serve as a significant test for the country, offering the public an opportunity to officially challenge the law. 

"Through the elections, we will have a referendum on Europe. That's how we have to see these forthcoming elections, which cannot be normal elections, which will be elections to stop this deviation." 

"I'm using a weak word, it's just a diversion. We're going to get back on the road, but it's important to do it through the elections," said Zourabichvili.

Georgia's 'European Dream'

Zourabichvili discussed the bill's potential impact on Georgia's aspirations to join the European Union. As a candidate country, Georgia must meet certain requirements, including demonstrating a commitment to democratic principles.

EU figures such as European Council President Charles Michel have emphasised that for Georgians to pursue EU membership, they must uphold fundamental principles such as the rule of law and democratic values.

"The European Union must make it very clear that it will take Georgia's choice into account, i.e. that it will not sanction the country. I make a distinction between individual sanctions and sanctions against the country, but the country will not be sanctioned until its response is known through the ballot box", said the Georgian president.

For Salomé Zourabichvili, there is no "Russian temptation" in Georgia; rather, she perceives it as "Russian manoeuvres" orchestrated by certain leaders.

She insisted that the Georgian population would not be interested in adopting Russian values, saying, "There can be no temptation to return to the Russian fold, especially when you look at what Russia is today."

The bill — which has caused major controversy due to its similarity to the Kremlin's law meant to tighten Putin's grip on neighbouring Russia — requires media, nongovernmental organisations and other non-profit groups to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power" if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.

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