How the Ukrainian community supports Georgia’s free future

May 10,2024 219
How the Ukrainian community supports Georgia’s free future

Kateryna Kozak, Executive Director of Svitanok, a Ukrainian youth organization in Georgia, said in an interview with the Ukrainian World Congress that the Ukrainian community supports Georgia’s path to a free future and actively aids democratic processes in the country.

Mass protests in Georgia began on March 7 due to the parliament’s support for a new law on “foreign agents,” similar to Russia’s 2012 law. The following day, riot police dispersed protesters, leading to arrests, but the demonstrations persist. Protesters demand the withdrawal of the legislative initiative.

“We understand the significance of the ongoing process in Georgian society and the critical importance of preventing the adoption of the so-called ‘foreign agents’ law, directly referred to as the ‘Russian law’ here. At rallies, you can see people holding three flags together: Georgian, European Union, and Ukrainian, demonstrating mutual understanding and unity in the struggle. That’s why Ukrainians also participate in peaceful rallies. It’s very heartening for both sides when Georgians hear Ukrainian and respond with ‘Glory to Ukraine,’ and Ukrainians can also reply, ‘Sakartvelos Gaumarjos,'” says Kozak.

Ukrainians participate in protests, provide first aid supplies, and disseminate verified information about events in Georgia in various languages. In some cases, establishments owned by Ukrainians allow protesters to come in for water, charge their phones, and rest.

“Currently, Georgians are resolute and determined to achieve their demands. Comparing to last year, it feels like more Georgians are joining the rallies, coming from regions because it’s understood that if this law is attempted to be passed for the second time despite protests, it won’t pass without consequences. When people are aware of potential dangers to their lives and health, and protests continue daily, even on Easter, when protesters gathered at the church near the parliament, it speaks volumes about Georgian society’s determination not to give up,” Kozak shares.

Presently, protests, though not as massive, continue daily. The next major rally is planned for May 11, and on May 12, as parliament resumes work on Monday, protesters intend to stay overnight near the parliament and meet the MPs on Monday morning.

“The foreign agents law has passed its second reading and is scheduled for voting in the third reading on May 17. If it’s adopted in the third reading, it will then be submitted for signature to the president, who may veto it,” continues the Executive Director of Svitanok.

Predicting the outcome is challenging, admits Kozak. “Considering the recent increase in attacks by strangers on protest leaders near their homes, threats to their families, and intimidation, there’s an understanding that they want to pass the foreign agents law despite everything. But, given the mood of the protesters, these instances of physical violence strengthen their resolve to continue until the end. So, time will tell. Personally, I fervently hope that the Georgian people, together with a dignified government, will restore their path to democratic reforms and move towards European values,” Kozak concludes.

Earlier, the Ukrainian diaspora in France expressed its support for rallies in Georgia, advocating for the country’s existence free from Russian influence. A solidarity event was held in Paris in support of the peaceful protesters in Georgia.

The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) expresses its full support to the people of Georgia, who have taken to the streets to protest against the Georgian parliament’s attempt to adopt a controversial “foreign agents” bill.

Photos: Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters; Giorgia Arjevanidze/AFP via Getty Images; Vano Shlamow/AFP