Ex-Georgia president arrested again in Ukraine

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, was arrested in Ukraine, three days after a crowd of his backers freed him from police.

Supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili, former Georgian president and past Odessa governor, protest Friday night near the security service office where he is being detained after his arrest. Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA
Supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili, former Georgian president and past Odessa governor, protest Friday night near the security service office where he is being detained after his arrest. Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

Saakashvili, who became governor of the Odessa province after he came to Ukraine in 2015, was arrested Friday and has been placed in a “temporary detention facility” because he formed a “criminal group,” Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Yuriy Lutsenko, said in a statement obtained by Politico Europe.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office said prosecutors want to place Saakashvili under house arrest with electronic monitoring as he awaits trial.

Saakashvili, 49, has not been formally charged but Lutsenko earlier said he received $500,000 from a fugitive Ukrainian businessman close to ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, now living in Russia

Saakashvili has denied Lutsenko’s accusations, saying they were made to remove him as a rival to current President Petro Poroshenko.

David Sakvarelidze, a longtime supporter of Saakashvili, told the newspaper Ukraina Pravada that he was hiding at the home of a friend identified by news media outlets identified as Yuriy Pokinboroda.

Saakashvili’s supporters gathered overnight outside the detention center, chanting “glory to Ukraine” and lighting fires in the street for warmth, the New York Times reported.

Saakashvili’s attorney, Ruslan Chornolutskiy, released a letter from his client calling for a protest Sunday to demand the impeachment of Poroshenko. The former leader also has declared a hunger strike.

He was first aligned with Poroshenko, but later became an opponent of the Ukrainian president and subsequently lost his citizenship.

Saakashvili, who was Georgia’s president for 10 years, is wanted on corruption charges in his native country and faces extradition.

Saakashvili was first arrested Tuesday during a raid on his apartment. Ukrainian security forces dragged him off his apartment roof but in a standoff with police in riot gear and with pepper spray, several hundred protesters blocked the streets and then pulled Saakashvili from the van.

By Allen Cone