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In Photos: Georgian Riot Police Clash With Protesters Rallying Against 'Foreign Influence' Bill

Thousands of Georgians this week have rallied against a controversial “foreign influence” bill being debated in Georgia’s parliament. Critics compare the legislation to Russia’s “foreign agents” law, which since its adoption over a decade ago has been used to crack down on independent media and the political opposition.

In the latest escalation, police used pepper spray, tear gas, and water cannons against hundreds of demonstrators. The anti-government rallies have been staged in central Tbilisi since Georgia’s parliament approved the “foreign influence” bill in its first reading last month.

The draft legislation was approved in its second reading on Wednesday night. A final reading is scheduled for May 17.

Georgia has sought for years to deepen its relations with the West, but the ruling Georgian Dream party, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, has adopted increasingly anti-Western views in recent years and has been accused of trying to steer closer to Russia.