Ukraine’s security services locked in stand-off
Ukraine’s law enforcers were locked in a stand-off with fugitive former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili yesterday and faced mounting questions from western powers about their handling of the case and their commitment to fighting corruption.
Mr Saakashvili was detained on a Kiev rooftop on Tuesday but supporters dragged him free from a police van and set up a protest camp with him at its centre outside the Ukrainian parliament.
At about 6am yesterday, police officers raided the camp to arrest Mr Saakashvili, whom Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko accuses of conspiring with a pro-Russian oligarch to seize power through street protests.
Several protesters and police were hurt in the ensuing scuffles, but Mr Saakashvili again evaded capture and refused to answer questions at the prosecutor general’s office, insisting instead that investigators come to the tent camp.
After leading Georgia for almost a decade, Mr Saakashvili became governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region in 2015 on the invitation of the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko.
He resigned the following year, however, and accused Mr Poroshenko and allies like Mr Lutsenko of blocking reforms and protecting powerful politicians and businessmen from the anti-corruption drive demanded by protesters during Ukraine’s 2013-14 revolution.
“I appeal to Poroshenko: Why do you need these provocations?” Mr Saakashvili wrote on Facebook following the raid on his camp.
“Don’t attack and don’t force people to defend themselves! It’s a peaceful protest! Has experience taught you nothing?” he wrote, referring to the deadly clashes in Kiev that prompted pro-Kremlin ex-president Viktor Yanukovich to flee to Russia in 2014.
Mr Lutsenko gave Mr Saakashvili until yesterday evening to surrender, but the leader of Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution only urged more people to join a camp where his supporters have built makeshift barricades and gathered mounds of rocks to hurl at police if they attempt another raid.