Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who leads the Movement of New Forces party in Ukraine, was arrested by the Ukrainian authorities late-night on December 8, three days after their failed attempt to detain him.
According to the National Police, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is charged with assisting criminal groups and covering up their criminal activities, was apprehended in a flat in Kyiv’s Solomianka District and transferred to a detention facility.
Davit Sakvarelidze, one of ex-President’s close associates, who reported on the arrest first, told Rustavi 2 TV that Mikheil Saakashvili was detained at his friend’s apartment, where he had been staying to recover from illness.
The Movement of New Forces called on Saakashvili’s supporters to gather near the Security Service premises at Askoldov lane in Kyiv, where he was reportedly transferred to. Video footages from the scene showed heavy police presence in and around the building, with several hundred Saakashvili supporters blocking one of the entrances.
Saakashvili, whose brief address was read out to his protesters, denied the charges as “false,” and called on his supporters to attend the party’s earlier announced rally on December 10 in demand of President Petro Poroshenko’s impeachment.
According to Larisa Sargan, spokesperson of Ukrainian Chief Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, the prosecution would seek house arrest of Mikheil Saakashvili. Pavlo Bogomazov, Saakashvili’s defense lawyer, told Rustavi 2 TV that the ex-President had decided to go on a hunger strike.
Ukrainian Chief Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko commented on the arrest as well, saying in his late-night Facebook post that the law enforcement “did everything possible” to avoid radical measures and bloodshed.
Reactions in Georgia
Mikheil Saakashvili’s detention drew criticism of two leading opposition parties in Georgia – the United National Movement and the European Georgia.
Zaal Udumashvili, UNM’s candidate in the October mayoral elections in Tbilisi, said the party’s main governing body – the political council – would convene later today to plan out the future steps of action. “President Poroshenko is playing a losing game; his decision only accelerates the end of his term in office,” he also noted, and expressed hope that Mikheil Saakashvili would “soon be free, which perhaps is a matter of several days or hours, and finish the struggle that he has begun.”
Gigi Ugulava, General Secretary of the European Georgia, said Saakashvili’s detention by the Ukrainian authorities was “political persecution,” and that “political opponents should not be treated in that manner.”
Ugulava also emphasized that persecution against political opponents had started in Georgia back in 2013, when “Saakashvili was forced to leave the country.” “We have political prisoners in Georgia and if we want this problem to be solved, we need to solve it here, in Georgia… all political prisoners should be released and all political refugees should be allowed back to the country and allowed to conduct any activity, be it political or other.”