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Risch, Shaheen, Colleagues Condemn Passage of Russian-Style Foreign Agents Bill in Georgia

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), chair of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, along with U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), today sent a joint statement following passage of the Russian-style bill that will severely limit free speech and democratic accountability in Georgia:

“This is a dark day for Georgian democracy. We are profoundly disappointed by the Georgian parliament’s passage of a Russian-style foreign agents bill. This vote was cast in violation of the wishes of hundreds of thousands of Georgians who continue to peacefully protest against legislation that will not only be used to limit free speech but will hinder the advancement of democracy in Georgia. This law, which requires all organizations that receive more than 20% of their budgets from overseas to report as foreign agents, will suppress the important work of civil society in a country where funds are scarce. The passage of this law will fundamentally change Georgia’s relationship with the United States and damage aspirations for European Union (EU) membership.

“As we warned in our letter to Prime Minister Kobakhidze, passage of this bill will require Congress to consider a shift in U.S. policy toward Georgia to reflect the new political landscape in Georgia. As we previously cautioned, these measures may include sanctions on those responsible for undermining democracy, visa bans and reconsideration of direct U.S. aid. As members of Congress who hold deep affection for the Georgian people and have championed strong bipartisan and bilateral ties, we will continue to support and uplift the voice of the people – 79% of which consistently support EU membership. And although today is a dark day, we continue to believe in the Georgian people who fight for a brighter future for their country.”

Last month, Risch and Shaheen sent a bipartisan letter to the prime minister of Georgia following the re-introduction of this bill urging the government to reconsider it. Risch and Shaheen participated as election monitors in Georgia in 2012.