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Russian diplomat labels European foreign ministers ‘US agents’ for marching with protesters in Georgia

Demonstrators gather at the Parliamentary building during an opposition protest against the foreign agent bill in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)
Demonstrators gather at the Parliamentary building during an opposition protest against the foreign agent bill in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)
Dmitry Polyanskiy

Dmitry Polyanskiy

Deputy Russian Ambassador to the United Nations

"Nothing extraordinary – foreign (US) agents are leading the demonstrations abroad against the law on foreign agents."


On May 28, Georgian lawmakers overrode a presidential veto on the controversial “foreign agent” law fueling months-long mass protests in the capital Tbilisi. Critics saying the bill resembles Russia’s notorious foreign agent law, which the Kremlin uses to restrict press freedom and civil society. The law was introduced by the ruling Georgian Dream Party, which also controls the country’s legislature.

EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Josep Borrell warned in a post on X on May 28 that the foreign agent law “will impact Georgia's EU path” as it “is not in line with EU values.”

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili on May 18 vetoed the law, as the opposition fears it could become a tool of political oppression in the hands of the governing party.

Addressing the protesters in Tbilisi on May 26, Georgia’s Independence Day, Zurabishvili said “the ghost of Russia” was standing between her nation and its Western allies, a partnership with which “is a true way to maintain our independence, peace and strength.”

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, who represents the ruling party and backs the foreign agent law, described the opposition and the president’s pro-Western policies as “betrayal.” Georgia faces “existential threats,” because of "series" of such "betrayals," he claimed in his Independence Day speech.

Kobakhidze’s rhetoric echoes the narratives of Russian propaganda and disinformation claiming that the United States, not the Georgian people, are driving the protests.

When a video appeared May 15 on social media, showing the foreign ministers of Latvia, Estonia, Iceland and Lithuania marching among the protesters in Georgia, a Russian diplomat seized an opportunity.

Deputy Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy reposted the video on X with a comment:

“Nothing extraordinary – foreign (US) agents are leading the demonstrations abroad against the law on foreign agents. We all recall the same picture in Ukraine and know how it ended and how Ukrainian interests were trampled on. Hopefully the Georgians have learned this lesson.”

That is misleading.

No U.S. representatives can be seen in the video, and it is unclear why Russia’s U.N. diplomat would potentially breach diplomatic protocol and label foreign ministers of four independent European nations as “US agents.”

As for who leads the protests in Georgia – the Georgian political opposition along with the president are leading the rallies.

The U.S. and other Western nations have publicly expressed support for the Georgian protesters and criticized the bill, citing its similarities with the Russian law, its conflict with EU values and potential negative effect on Georgia's status as a candidate country.

Russia claims these concerns are only a pretext to stage yet another “color revolution,” and Polyanskiy’s comment fits the typical Kremlin disinformation narrative for pro-democracy rallies worldwide.

Over the years, Russia has accused the United States of staging “color revolutions” in Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Ukraine, Hong Kong and throughout the Middle East and Africa.

The Kremlin criticizes the legitimacy of popular movements that advocate democracy, anti-corruption and reform, claiming that the United States is behind them. According to Moscow, human rights NGOs and independent media have neither freedom of action nor ambitions but are being manipulated and financed by the West.

In 2003, the series of nonviolent public uprisings in Georgia called the Rose Revolution forced veteran Communist Eduard Shevardnadze and his Citizens' Union of Georgia Party to resign from presidency and give up control over the country.

The new government of President Mikheil Saakashvili focused on building a democratic pro-Western Georgia, resolving secessionist conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and seeking NATO membership.

Moscow opposed the reforms and attempted to destabilize Georgia and topple Saakashvili.

In 2006, Russia introduced a sweeping embargo on Georgian agricultural products, including the most important of Georgia’s exports – wine. Moscow not only prohibited the import of Georgian wine but implemented confiscation and destruction of all Georgia-made products across Russia. Russian state TV broadcasted daily the footage of thousands upon thousands of bottles of Georgian wine bulldozed into the ground.

In the fall of the same year, Moscow began the mass deportation of Georgian citizens from Russia. It was common to hear people at the transportation hubs screaming “I am not Georgian!” while being dragged away by law enforcement. In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights ruled Russia’s deportation of the Georgians illegal.

In August 2008 Russian troops invaded Georgian territory, and after an eight day war Russia established full control over the Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia) and Abkhazia, which make up 20% of Georgian territory.

Moscow’s active measures against President Saakashvili involved a massive disinformation campaign, portraying him as a U.S. “puppet” and trying to dehumanize and humiliate him.

Western media reported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s notorious animosity toward Saakashvili and credited the Kremlin for the reverse of Georgian foreign policy after Saakashvili’s departure in 2012.

Moscow supported the takeover by Russian-Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream Party in Georgia, followed by the country’s distancing from the West and returning to the Russian “sphere of influence.”

The U.S. condemned Georgia’s foreign agent law, saying its enforcement would jeopardize bilateral relations. On May 23, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions for Georgian officials involved in drafting and adopting the bill and those who participated in the use of violence against protesters.

Additionally, the chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Republican Representative Joe Wilson introduced legislation offering a significant boost of U.S. economic and security support to Georgia, if the authorities in Tbilisi abandon "the enactment of the recent Russian-style foreign agent legislation."

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