Georgian Dream leader punched in head by MP amid uproar over return of “the Russian law"

Georgian Dream leader punched in head by MP amid uproar over return of “the Russian law
Elisashvili shouted "You Russian motherf***er," rushed to the front of the room and struck Mdinaradze. / YouTube, screenshot
By bne IntelliNews April 16, 2024

There were gripping scenes inside and outside the Georgian parliament—including the sight of Georgian opposition lawmaker Aleko Elisashvili punching the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream parliamentary faction, Mamuka Mdinaradze, in the head—on April 15 as a controversial “foreign agents” bill passed a committee-stage vote.

Mdinaradze was physically attacked by Elisashvili as he attempted to introduce the bill, which has caused a lot of division in Georgia because of its similarity to Russian legislation used by the Kremlin to silence critics and severely limit the work of non-profit groups and media that receive funding from the West.

"You Russian motherf***er," Elisashvili shouted as he rushed to the front of the room and struck Mdinaradze.

Despite the attack, Mdinaradze seemed fine and, though there were a few minutes of mayhem, the discussions over the bill quickly resumed.

"We will give a proper response," Mdinaradze said.

Elisashvili was thrown out of the debating room after the incident.

RFE/RL news video report. Punching incident takes place after one minute, 47 seconds of footage.

People had different reactions to what happened—some condemned the violence while others seemed to celebrate it, even making memes about Elisashvili as if he'd won a mixed martial arts fight.

The "foreign agents" bill  sparked large-scale protests and Western condemnation when it was first introduced last year, leading to its withdrawal. If enacted, the legislation would require non-profit groups and media that receive money from foreign sources to report their activities to the government and bear a label that would mean they are seen as influenced by foreign powers.

The debate over the Foreign Agents Law held by the parliamentary legal committee began tensely—the committee's chairman, Anri Okhanashvili, contended that labelling the contentious bill as a "Russian law" amounts to misinformation. Anyone using such a term had their microphone promptly turned off. Like Elisashvili, several opposition members were kicked out of the room.

Outside the parliament, thousands of people gathered to show they were against the revival of the bill. There were tense scenes, with riot police and water cannons deployed in anticipation of unrest. Fourteen protesters were detained.

Compared to the bill that was withdrawn in March last year, the meaning of the text of the drafted legislation presented this time around is almost the same. Different words have been used—instead of calling groups "foreign agents," they're now called "organisations pursuing the interests of a foreign power."

President Salome Zurabishvili took to social media to decry the return of the bill, tweeting: "Georgia will not surrender to resovietisation." 

Critics at home and abroad see the law as a potential threat to Georgia’s aspirations to join the EU and future commitment to democratic principles.

While Georgia's opposition call the bill the "Russian law," Georgian Dream claims it is simply copied and pasted from US legislation. The bill will now proceed to a first reading in parliament.

Russian ultra-nationalist and anti-globalist thinker Alexander Dugin this week commended the Georgian government for its persistent efforts to pass the bill into law.

"Georgia is on the right track. If you want sovereignty, destroy the fifth column. We [Russia] have taken this path, and the positive effect is obvious. Although this is just the beginning and so far we are hitting the top. How many liberal agents still remain in the depths of society – in the elite, bureaucracy, education, culture, business. Entire Augean stables. But with God’s help, we will clean them out," he wrote on his Telegram channel. 

Dugin also said that "Georgia needs Stalin; otherwise, globalist corruption and shame will ruin this beautiful country."