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Saakashvili Sprung From Ukrainian Police Custody

Drama unfolds in Kyiv as police arrest the former Georgian leader, then give way to onslaught by his supporters.

5 December 2017

Supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili freed him from a police van on a Kyiv street today, hours after Ukrainian security officers raided the former Georgian president’s apartment this morning and arrested him.

 

Supporters gathered outside the building and blocked the street for hours and eventually released Saakashvili from the vehicle, according to a Washington Post report.

 

Shortly after his release, the outspoken opposition politician held a “defiant impromptu rally in front of parliament in Kyiv” and called for President Petro Poroshenko’s resignation, RFE/RL reports.

 

When the raid began, Saakashvili made his way up to the roof of the building and threatened to jump – meanwhile making a speech to supporters who had gathered on the street below. After he was detained, supporters clashed with police and shots were fired, according to Hromadske International.

 

Saakashvili's supporters surrounded the police car and he was able to escape into the crowd. Image: Nəsimi Əliyev/Facebook

 

Ukrainian media wrote that Saakashvili may have been suspected of preparing a coup against Poroshenko, The Washington Post says. Saakashvili’s lawyer, Markiyan Halabala, said his client is charged with facilitating the activities of a criminal group, Ukrinform reports.

 

A spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Service, or SBU, told RFE/RL that the search of his apartment was part of a criminal inquiry conducted by the Prosecutor General’s Office.

 

Saakashvili has attracted the ire of Poroshenko and state prosecutors since he quit his post as governor of Odessa – a post Poroshenko personally appointed him to.

 

At the time, Saakashvili was harsh in his criticism of Poroshenko, who he accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in the region.

 

His resignation was quickly followed by a public falling out of the two men, who were once firm allies. Saakashvili, an exile from his native Georgia since rivals came to power there, has since repositioned himself as an outspoken critic of the Poroshenko regime.

 

Saakashvili’s Movement of New Forces party was behind a “March for Impeachment” in Kyiv on 3 December, the Kyiv Post reports.

 

On 29 November Saakashvili claimed Poroshenko had ordered his arrest on charges of plotting a coup, according to the report.

 

 

  • Investigators are in possession of a recording purported to be of Saakashvili and fugitive businessman Serhiy Kurchenko discussing “interests” in Ukraine, Chief Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko said today, according to Interfax-Ukraine. Kurchenko fled Ukraine after the overthrow of then-president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

 

  • Lutsenko also said Saakashvili received $500,000 from Kurchenko for his activities in Ukraine.

 

  • Saakashvili was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in July, making him officially stateless. He still faces criminal charges in Georgia of alleged abuse of office while president. 

Compiled by Kate Syme-Lamont

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