Protesters in Georgia claim that Moscow controls the government

Thousands of opposition supporters gathered outside the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi on Sunday amid growing criticism of the government for its authoritarian, pro-Russian ways.

The protest has been named after the main opposition group, the United National Movement, which was founded by imprisoned former president Mikheil Saakashvili.

The demonstrators waved Georgian, Ukrainian and European Union flags.

The demonstrators are calling for “the release of political prisoners and the implementation of reforms” that the European Union is seeking to grant Tbilisi the status of its candidate.

The government of the ruling Georgian Dream party has been accused of jailing opponents, silencing independent media and secretly collaborating with the Kremlin.

Former President Giorgi Margelashvili said: “The government is under the control of Moscow and our obligation is to save our homeland from Russian agents. We are freedom-loving, we are part of the European family, and we reject Russian slavery.

“Our fight will be peaceful but uncompromising and will lead us to where we belong in the European Union,” said painter Luca Kavasadze, 27.

Under pressure from mass protests, the government last month dropped a bill inspired by the Russian model to designate NGOs and media as “foreign agents” that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.

On Wednesday, the United States announced the banning of four Georgian judges, accusing them of abusing their positions to serve the interests of the oligarchy.

Along with Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia applied for EU membership a few days after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory in late February 2022. In June, the EU granted official candidate status to Kiev and Chisinau, but asked Tbilisi to implement reforms first.

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