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TBILISI — Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has urged a group of EU ambassadors to support the country on its “European path” at a time of high tensions, as protesters gathered at an Orthodox Easter vigil in central Tbilisi, site of mass anti-government rallies in recent days.

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Zurabishvili — who sides with the protesters against government plans to introduce a “provocative” Russian-style “foreign agents” law — told the EU diplomats they can help show Georgians that the country “is not alone” in aspirations to move closer to the West and away from any Kremlin influence.

Western leaders have blasted the ruling Georgian Dream party’s plans to introduce the legislation, and the EU has said implementation will derail the country’s hopes of joining the bloc. Polls have suggested overwhelming support for EU membership among Georgians, with figures last year indicating nearly 90 percent backing.

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“I would like to thank your governments and officials for their support for Georgia and Georgia’s European path,” Zurabishvili told the EU ambassadors meeting at the Orbeliani Palace in Tbilisi.

“I adhere to the constitution and also represent and protect the voice of the public, the voice of young people who stand peacefully and very responsibly on the streets,” she said.

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“But [I also represent] the voices of the rest of the people who may not come out on the streets but who have shared a European perspective and plan for many years and who have expressed their will to join the European Union,” she added.

Zurabishvili said that “we are following” the rallies but that “I am not the leader of any of these movements.”

“I would like to say that the responsibility of what is happening today, what will happen tomorrow…lies with the government of the country, because the chain of these events has been triggered by them,” she added.

She said that “the government from nowhere…reintroduced this very provocative ‘foreign agents’ law and other laws when the whole country was united around the European path.”

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in the capital, Tbilisi, over the past week to protest Georgian Dream’s plan to introduce the “foreign agent” law that Western leaders say mirrors legislation used in Russia to silence opposition voices.

Zurabishvili, in a split with the government, has come out vocally against the proposed law, saying she will veto it should it pass its final reading, likely on May 17. However, she acknowledges that Georgian Dream has enough votes to override any veto.

She has described the bill as “a Russian law by essence,” and said the government was “prone to making concessions to Russia” and was attempting to replicate “the way Russia has managed to really repress the civil society.”

The draft law would, among other things, require civil-society organizations and media outlets to report foreign funding and subject them to government oversight.

The streets on the evening of May 4 appeared calmer amid rainy conditions.

However, protesters and others began gathering around 10 p.m. on central Rustaveli Avenue in front of the parliament building and near the Kashveti Church for the Easter vigil.

The official liturgy was to take place at another cathedral, but those who have participated in protest rallies have said they will return to Rustaveli Avenue.

Despite the rain, many people on social networks say they will spend the night there.

Many Georgians will also be closely watching the official ceremony, in which government officials usually attend, to hear what the leader of the Orthodox Church, the patriarch, will say in his Easter address, while the authorities will be bracing for signs of further protest.

Protesters have claimed that, in addition to water cannons and tear gas, police also used rubber bullets. RFE/RL gathered eyewitness accounts, photographic evidence of injuries, interviewed three of the injured, and filmed the rubber bullets at the scene where they were reportedly fired. The government has denied that rubber bullets have been used.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has continued to defend the legislation, saying it is necessary to achieve “depolarization,” in keeping with recommendations by the EU.

Kobakhidze said that in a May 3 a conversation with European Council President Charles Michel, he relayed his disappointment that Georgia’s partners were “reluctant to engage in substantive discussions” on the bill and that “we have not yet heard any counterarguments against this proposed legislation.”

Kobakhidze wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the proposed legislation “is solely aimed at promoting transparency and accountability of relevant organizations vis-a-vis Georgian society.”

Kobakhidze also repeated allegations of “the active involvement of foreign-funded organizations in two attempted revolutions in Georgia between 2020 and 2023.”

In an earlier tweet on May 3, Kobakhidze criticized the United States, one of Georgia’s biggest backers, of making “false” statements about the legislation.

Kobakhidze also accused former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan, who was serving in that position from 2020 to 2023, as well as foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) of allegedly supporting two attempted revolutions, without providing evidence.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michel, in his own X post on May 3, said that in his telephone call with Kobakhidze he had reiterated the European Union’s “full support to all Georgians who put [a] European future of their country first.”

Georgia is a candidate to join the European Union and has also sought membership in the NATO defense alliance.

“Vibrant debate is a cornerstone, and genuine dialogue is now needed,” Michel said. “Georgia’s future belongs with the EU. Don’t miss this historic chance.”

U.S. State Department policy adviser Derek Chollet, who has urged Khobakhidze to withdraw the “foreign agent” bill, said on May 3 that Georgia was at an inflection point, with its Euro-Atlantic aspirations now hanging in the balance.

“There is still room to return to the path the Georgian people want and deserve,” Chollet wrote on X.

A wave of anger has washed across Georgia since the ruling Georgian Dream party said it was reintroducing a slightly modified version of the “foreign agent” legislation, which protests forced it to back away from last year.

Since the second reading of the revised legislation was passed on May 1, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Tbilisi, leading to dozens of detentions and injuries among demonstrators.

Georgia submitted its application to join the European Union in March 2022, shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which like Georgia is a former Soviet republic.

The European Union in December officially granted Georgia candidate status to join the bloc. Polls have suggested that support for EU membership among Georgians last year stood at nearly 90 percent.

Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 in support of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway Georgian regions that Moscow subsequently recognized as independent states.