By Felix Light

TIBLIS, March 9 (Reuters) – Georgia’s ruling party on Thursday announced the withdrawal of the “foreign agents” bill after two nights of violent protests against what opponents say is a Russian-inspired authoritarian turn that puts jeopardize the country’s hopes of joining the European Union. Union.

The ruling Georgian Dream party said in a statement that “we will unconditionally withdraw the bill that we support, without any reservations.” He also spoke of the need to reduce “confrontation” in society, while denouncing the “lies” of the “radical opposition” to the plan.

However, opposition leaders said protests would resume at 7 p.m. local time (1500 GMT). Giga Lemonjava, a representative of the Droa party, said he demanded that the government officially denounce the bill and release all those detained during the protests.

The Black Sea country of 3.7 million people has seen frequent political turmoil since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, including a peaceful ‘pink revolution’ in 2003 and a calamitous war against Russia five years later. .

The bill would have required Georgian organizations that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face fines.

Government officials claimed the proposals were necessary to eradicate “foreign influence” and “spies” from the Georgian political scene, arguing that Georgians have a right to know who funds non-governmental organizations working there.

The opposition said it was a local version of a Russian law that President Vladimir Putin used to crush dissent for more than a decade.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was “concerned” about the events in Tbilisi, saying the Georgian bill had no connection with Russian legislation. “The Kremlin didn’t inspire anything there, the Kremlin has absolutely nothing to do with it (…) If I understood correctly, a version looked a lot like an equivalent law in the United States”, he said.

(Additional reporting by David Chkhikvishvili, Jake Cordell and Ben Tavener; writing by Felix Light and Mark Trevelyan; editing in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)

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