Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili detained in Georgia
The former President Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested in Georgia on October 1, just one day before the crucial local elections, informs the OC Media.
During a press briefing on Friday evening, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili announced that the authorities had arrested the third Georgian President and honorary chair of the opposition United National Movement party (UNM) and that he had been transported to prison.
Saakashvili has been convicted in absentia on several counts of abuse of power in Georgia, including ordering an attack on political opponent Valeri Gelashvili and illegally promising a pardon to law enforcement officers implicated in a 2006 murder of Sandro Girgvliani.
Saakashvili announced his return to the homeland on September 27, following multiple similar yet broken promises since leaving the country in 2013.
While Georgian authorities vowed to detain him as soon as he set foot on Georgian soil, Saakashvili published an image of a ticket he had booked — set to land on Saturday evening — as proof of his impending arrival.
However, late on October 1, Saakashvili released a live video allegedly from Georgia’s coastal city of Batumi and said that he is already in Georgia ahead of tomorrow’s municipal elections. In the video, Saakashvili has urged the public to vote for the United National Movement (UNM) in the elections and if not the UNM, then some other, smaller, “real opposition parties” and not for the Georgian Dream ruling party (GD) or ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party.
He said that he would not appear in public until election day was over and called on Georgians to take to the streets on October 3.
Meanwhile, The Georgian Interior Ministry claimed that Saakashvili has not crossed the Georgian border and that Ukraine has also confirmed that the Georgian ex-president has not left the country. The ruling Georgian Dream party says that Saakashvili’s Batumi video is “fake”, while the UNM claims Saakashvili really returned and that he will appear in public tomorrow.
The ruling GD MP Mamuka Mdinaradze added later that the country’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili was in the Ukrainian resort town of Truskavets and not in Batumi, Georgia, as Saakashvili claimed.
After Saakashvili’s detention, the Georgian Ministry of interior swiftly changed its narrative. It claimed the detention was planned in advance. The operation has been carried out secretly to avoid public confrontation and the possible escalations”, the ministry representative Mamuka Tchelidze said at today’s news briefing. He said Saakashvili was detained at an apartment in the district of Gldani-Nadzaladevi in Tbilisi “in precise and efficient time”. The owner of the apartment where Saakashvili was staying has also been detained for covering the crime.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili thanked his Ukrainian counterpart for “fruitful cooperation” in the detention of Saakashvili, who holds Ukrainian citizenship. On the other hand, Sergii Nykyforov, President Zelenskyy’s press secretary, wrote on Facebook that the Ukrainian President “is concerned about the news and the tone of statements bursting in Georgia about the possible development of the situation.” Nykyforov said Ukraine addresses the Georgian side “to clarify all circumstances and reasons for such a step relative to the Ukrainian citizen.”
The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine has later summoned the Georgian Ambassador in Kyiv over the detention of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi, said Oleg Nikolenko, Ukrainian MFA spokesperson.