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Ukraine Rearrests Former Georgian President Saakashvili


Police officers stand guard near a temporary detention facility where Georgian former President Mikheil Saakashvili was escorted after being detained in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 8, 2017.

Ukrainian police on Friday rearrested former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili after he was freed from police custody earlier this week in dramatic fashion by his supporters.

Prosecutors say police detained Saakashvili in Kyiv and are holding him in a temporary detention facility. Hundreds of his supports gathered outside the facility Friday evening, shouting “Shame.”

The arrest is the latest development in a long-running feud between Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was his one-time patron.

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, left, and his wife Sandra Roelofs, right, attend a rally of his supporters as they camp out outside parliament demanding the resignation of the Ukrainian president, in Kyiv, Dec. 6, 2017.
Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, left, and his wife Sandra Roelofs, right, attend a rally of his supporters as they camp out outside parliament demanding the resignation of the Ukrainian president, in Kyiv, Dec. 6, 2017.

Earlier this week, Saakashvili climbed onto a roof to avoid capture by police and was later broken out of a police van by protesters amid clashes with law enforcement.

Saakashvili became a regional governor in Ukraine in 2015 at the invitation of President Poroshenko. However, the two men later had a falling out, with Saakashvili accusing the president of corruption and calling for his removal from office.

Michael Bociurkiw, Global Affairs Analyst and former OSCE spokesman, told VOA’s Ukrainian Service that this week’s events are bringing the country to a dangerous point.

“With the extreme actions this past week taken by the Poroshenko administration, it appears that Ukraine has reached a dangerous pivot point. The wins and joy of the last Maidan have been thwarted by powerful, corrupt forces, and Poroshenko is showing himself to be the weaker side,” Bociurkiw said.

“[Saakashvili’s] arrest this evening only serves to fan the flames of discontent,” he added.

Saakashvili came to politics in his native Georgia, where he helped to force out that country’s government during the 2003 Rose Revolution. He then served as president of Georgia for a decade before his political fortunes declined.

Poroshenko invited Saakashvili to Ukraine in 2015, appointing him to be governor of the important Black Sea region of Odessa. However, after the two had a falling out, Poroshenko rescinded Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship in July while he was out of the country.

Saakashvili later returned to Ukraine and pushed to garner opposition against the president and others he has accused of being corrupt.

Ukrainian prosecutors say they have evidence that aides to Saakashvili received $500,000 to finance protests from Ukrainian businessmen with ties to Russia. They accuse Saakashvili of trying to stage a coup sponsored by Russia. Saakashvili denies the allegations.

“If the charges are true, then this is a sad end to the meteoric career of Mikhail Saakashvili. If the case breaks down, it will usher in new elections as there will be no confidence domestically and internationally in the current authorities,” said Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Dinu Patriciu Eurasia.

Karatnycky told VOA’s Ukraine Service that Saakashvili is at least guilty of escaping police arrest.

“A minor crime. But one that a rule of law society cannot ignore," he said.

VOA's Ukrainian service contributed to this story.

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