At 15:55 on 12 February 2018, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested in the Kyiv restauraunt Suluguni, his ally and ex-Prosecutor General David Sakvarelidze wrote on fb. A video posted on the page of the ex-Odesa oblast governor turned Ukrainian opposition politician probably shows the moment of arrest:
Here’s another video from the restaurant’s security cameras:
Armed uniformed men are seen pushing Saakashvili to the ground and dragging him away.
The Security Service of Ukraine, Prosecutor General’s Office, and National Police immediately commented that they were not involved RFE/RL reported.
In an interview to the Austrian media Profil published on 12 February just a few hours before Saakashvili was detained, Ukrainian President Poroshenko, once Saakashvili’s friend and now bitter foe who once gave the Georgian politician Ukrainian citizenship and then stripped him of it when things went sour, said that the ex-Odesa governor could be deported from Ukraine, but this is the business of the migration and border service, which he as the head of state “does not want to influence.”
According to the sources of Ukrainska Pravda and TSN in law enforcement circles, the possibility of Saakashvili’s deportation was opened as soon as a Ukrainian court denied his plea for protection against deportation on 5 February, and that he could be facing a deportation to Poland, which would be qualified as a “readmission” – meaning that Saakashvili would be sent back to the country from which he illegally entered Ukraine in September 2017.
Saakashvili’s supporters from his political party Rukh Novykh Syl, which had been organizing weekly protests demanding Poroshenko’s resignation, at times violent ones, announced a mobilization to prevent the politicians’ departure from Boryspil airport.
Meanwhile, Mikheil Saakashvili’s lawyer Ruslan Chornolutskyi told Hromadske that 10-12 special forces operatives took the politician in an unknown direction, RFE/RL reported. Chornolutskyi said that the Georgian ex-president’s stay in Ukraine was legal, based on a certificate given in accordance to the law on the status of refugees and persons requiring additional protection, and that his deportation would be illegal. He also said that his extradition to Georgia, as the Georgian side had been insisting, was impossible, as the evaluation of this move was not yet finished.
On 5 January 2018, the Tbilisi city court in Georgia sentenced Saakashvili to three years in jail in absentia on charges of illegally pardoning police officers convicted of murder. Saakashvili, who ruled Georgia over 2004-2013, denies the charges, which he says are politically motivated. Like most EU countries, Ukraine considered them politically motivated too, and refused to extradite Saakashvili while he was on the post of governor of Odesa Oblast, despite requests of the Georgian Prosecutor General’s office.
At 17:00, the State Border service announced that the Georgian ex-President was returned to the country from which he “arrived, violating Ukrainian law.”
“This person had been on Ukrainian territory illegally, so, with observance of all the legal formalities, he was returned to the country from which he arrived, violating domestic laws,” was said in the press statement of the State Border service.
At 18:09, the Polish State Border Service informed that Saakashvili was received on Polish territory:
“The decision was based on the application for readmission submitted by the State Migration Service of Ukraine to the Chief of the Border Guard Service. Taking into account the fact that Saakashvili is the husband of a citizen of a member state of the European Union, the request of the Ukrainian side was accepted,” its press statement said.
Mikheil Saakashvili had called from Warsaw and told about the details of his arrest – that the armed men tried to blindfold him and tie his hands. He was driven away in a car which made long circles around Kyiv, dropped off in Boryspil airport, had his arms bound and was boarded on an airplane which arrived at the spot. In a comment to the Polish media RMF FM, he said that “he loves Poland, but his fight is in Georgia and Ukraine”:
— Patryk Michalski (@patrykmichalski) February 12, 2018
A protest against the deportation is ongoing near the President’s Administration:
Saakashvili’s deportation has been criticized by Carl Bildt, co-Chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations:
Depriving Saakashvili of his only citizenship was a clear violation of his human rights. Forcible deporting him makes things even worse. https://t.co/fARZbsX381
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 12, 2018
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