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US could sanction Georgia politicians to ‘defend democracy’: Politico

USA
Officials responsible for pushing forward Georgia’s Russian-style “foreign agents” law could face asset freezes and travel bans under a new bill to be presented to the U.S. Congress, Politico reports.
 
A draft of the bill, seen by POLITICO, warns the governing Georgian Dream party has “increasingly and regrettably embraced a policy of accommodation with the Russian Federation” as part of an “increasingly illiberal turn.” The bill adds that Tbilisi “has openly attacked US and other western democracy promotion organizations as well as local and international civil society while embracing increased ties with Russia in particular, as well as China.”
 
South Carolina Republican Representative Joe Wilson will introduce the bill as soon as Monday, according to a person close to the process. Its terms would oblige top American officials to brief Congress on “nodes of improper political influence, kleptocracy, and elite corruption in Georgia,” as well as on suspected Russian and Chinese intelligence assets operating in the South Caucasus country.
 
As part of an effort at “protecting and securing democracy,” the draft law would mandate sanctions against government officials and others who “have material responsibility for undermining or injuring democracy, human rights, or security in Georgia.” It would introduce visa bans for politicians and the families of politicians who are responsible for the passage of “the recent Russia-style foreign agent legislation” targeting NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.
 
The penalties would also target Georgian law enforcement and the security services, who have clamped down on protests against the foreign agent bill. Authorities have responded to tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to demonstrate by deploying tear gas and water cannon, and beating and detaining activists and opposition politicians.
 
On a visit to Georgia last week, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien warned if Georgia passed the foreign agent bill, “we will see restrictions coming from the United States” that affect the finances or travel of those behind it. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said the foreign agent legislation entering into force would “compel us to fundamentally reassess our relationship with Georgia.”
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