Mikheil Saakashvili, Ex-President Of Georgia, Arrested In Ukraine, Again

KIEV, Ukraine -- Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, was arrested on Friday in Ukraine during a late-night police raid on an apartment where he had been sheltering after his escape from custody following a rooftop struggle with security agents this week.

Supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili gathered outside the detention center where he was being held in Kiev.

Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said in a Facebook post that Mr. Saakashvili, the standard-bearer of a vociferous campaign to remove the president of Ukraine, Petro O. Poroshenko, had been seized late Friday by police officers in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and placed in a pretrial detention center.

Scores of Mr. Saakashvili’s supporters gathered overnight outside the detention center, which is operated by the domestic security agency, and chanted “glory to Ukraine” and other slogans.

Vowing to stay until Mr. Saakashvili was released, they lit fires in the street to keep warm, just as protesters did in the winter of 2013-14 during an ultimately successful campaign to oust Ukraine’s previous president, Viktor F. Yanukovych.

A few hours before he was detained, Mr. Saakashvili had called for weekend protests against Mr. Poroshenko in Independence Square, an area in Kiev known as Maidan that was the center of the earlier demonstrations against Yanukovych.

But few analysts expect Mr. Saakashvili’s supporters, who see the former Georgian leader as a hero in the battle against corruption, to generate anything like the wave of discontent that toppled Yanukovych in February 2014.

Mr. Saakashvili has not yet been formally charged.

Mr. Lutsenko, the prosecutor general, this week accused him of receiving $500,000 for his political activities from a fugitive Ukrainian businessman close to Yanukovych, who has lived in exile in Russia since his ouster.

Mr. Saakashvili, who is also wanted in Georgia on fraud charges that he has derided as politically motivated, denied Mr. Lutsenko’s accusations, calling them a fabrication created to remove him as a rival to Mr. Poroshenko, a former ally turned bitter political enemy.

David Sakvarelidze, a longtime supporter of Mr. Saakashvili, told the newspaper Ukraina Pravda that the former Georgian president had been detained in Kiev while hiding at the home of a friend.

Local news media outlets identified the friend as Yuriy Pokinboroda, a police officer who served for a time as the chief in Luhansk, an eastern region of Ukraine now occupied by pro-Russian rebels.

Mr. Saakashvili, who ruled Georgia for nearly a decade, moved to Ukraine and was given Ukrainian citizenship after Yanukovych’s removal.

He initially voiced strong support for Yanukovych’s successor, Mr. Poroshenko, who appointed him governor of Odessa, a notoriously corrupt region on the Black Sea.

But the two had a bitter falling out after Mr. Saakashvili started accusing Mr. Poroshenko of tolerating and personally benefiting from high-level graft, a problem that has dogged Ukraine since it gained independence in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Saakashvili quit as Odessa’s governor last year and began rallying opposition to Mr. Poroshenko.

He was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and has also lost his Georgian citizenship, leaving him stateless.

Mr. Saakashvili’s detention ends an increasingly bizarre game of cat and mouse between Ukrainian law enforcement agencies loyal to Mr. Poroshenko and to Mr. Saakashvili.

Mr. Saakashvili was detained briefly on Tuesday after he climbed to the roof of an apartment building in Kiev and threatened to jump.

Eventually detained, he then escaped after hundreds of his supporters blocked a security service van that was to take him to a detention center.

Source: The New York Times