Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian ex-President and current advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been detained in Georgia after a dramatic return. This is what we know about the case.
Not many politicians can boast of having as dramatic and turbulent political career as Georgian born Mikheil Saakashvili. He was the third president of Georgia from 2003 and roughly until 2014, was president during the Russo-Georgian war and was since exiled following his presidency. He was convicted of several crimes in absentia.
He went to Ukraine, and in 2015 his Georgian citizenship was switched for an Ukrainian one. It lasted two years, during which he worked for the former president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. He even served as a governor of Odessa, until he had a fallout with Poroshenko that eventually led to him loosing his citizenship.
This rendered Mikheil “Misha” Saakashvili stateless. In the meantime, he was a persona non-grata in both Ukraine and in Georgia, where prison would be waiting for him, should he return. He spent two years as a stateless person until 2019, where he again received citizenship from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This has come back to haunt Zelenskyy.
Last Friday, Saakashvili returned to Tbilisi, where he was born. It was the first time in years, that he was walking on Georgian soil, but it didn’t last long, until he was imprisoned. Asked whether or not he would be pardoned, the current president of Georgia said that it would never happen.
This has pushed Zelenskyy and his administration to vow working on returning Saakashvili. As he is an Ukrainian citizen, he has the right to the consular services of Ukraine. “Saakashvili is our citizen. We will provide him with appropriate support. (…) We protect every citizen of Ukraine when he or she gets in trouble,” said Dmytro Kuleba, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine.
Now he has been provided with some consular services, according to Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko.
“The Ukrainian consul visited Ukrainian citizen Mikheil Saakashvili at a penitentiary establishment of the city of Rustavi in Georgia today. Mikheil Saakashvili’s state is satisfactory, and he did not make any complaints about the conditions in which he is being held,” Nikolenko told Interfax on Monday.
This year, in Georgia, has been dominated by political crisis. Demonstrations have been frequent and often violent, and there has been reported several attacks on for instance the Pride Parade. But also politically motivated violence between pro-government and opposition demonstrators have been seen.
The question that everyone in Georgia now is asking is, will Misha’s return change anything? Will it lead to more demonstrations? Does he actually have a plan? If so, what is that plan? Currently, nothing major has happened. There has been small protests outside the Rustavi Prison, where Saakashvili is detained.
On Saturday, Georgia had a local election. It is still not completely decisive, and in some 15 regions, another round of elections will have to take place. On Sunday, Saakashvili had called for protests, but Tbilisi was quiet all Sunday.