Ukraine’s se­cu­rity ser­vices locked in stand-off

The Irish Times - - World News - DANIEL McLAUGHLIN

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.

Odessa re­gion

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.

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