(.) – Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Kobakhidze called on Friday for a review of relations with the United States after Washington ordered punitive measures over the passage of a law on “foreign agents”, Russian news agencies reported. “Georgian-American relations must truly be reviewed. We’ll discuss this with the ambassador,” RIA news agency quoted Kobakhidze as telling journalists in Tbilisi. The prime minister said relations with Washington had suffered under the previous U.S. ambassador over the diplomat’s call for rapid and sharp changes in policy. Georgia’s parliament, controlled by the prime minister’s Georgian Dream party, passed the law requiring organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from overseas to register as agents of foreign influence. The legislation sparked large street protests. Opponents of the bill, with its provisions for onerous disclosure requirements and hefty fines for violations, say it is authoritarian and inspired by similar legislation in Russia. The European Union says the law could compromise Georgia’s bid to join the 27-nation bloc. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week imposed visa restrictions and launched a review of bilateral cooperation. He said the law would “stifle the exercise of freedoms of association and expression” and impede the work of independent media organizations.
Kobakhidze’s government says the bill will promote transparency and safeguard sovereignty against what it says is a bid in the West to drag Georgia into confrontation with Russia. Parliament voted to override a presidential veto of the bill, which has sparked some of the biggest protests seen in the South Caucasus country since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.