Zelensky calls for jailed Mikheil Saakashvili to be sent to Ukraine

Zelensky calls for jailed Mikheil Saakashvili to be sent to Ukraine
Zelensky calls for jailed Mikheil Saakashvili to be sent to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is demanding that the pro-West former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili — who’s in jail for abuse of workplace fees he denies — be despatched to Ukraine for pressing medical care.

Zelensky claimed with out proof that Moscow, by way of the federal government of Georgia — the place Saakashvili served as president till 2013 — was “killing” the previous chief after video emerged of him trying emaciated this week. Moscow has not commented on the current allegations however has beforehand dismissed any involvement with Saakashvili as “the theater of the absurd.”

Saakashvili, in an op-ed in Politico in April, mentioned he’s now “dying” and has been “systematically tortured, bodily and psychologically, and there’s at the moment proof of heavy steel poisoning in my physique. I now undergo from a bewildering array of over 20 critical diseases, all of which developed in confinement.” Calling himself a political prisoner, he obliquely blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “present predicament” with out giving particulars.

It’s unclear why Zelensky, who has long sought the transfer of Saakashvili — a Ukrainian citizen — is dialing up his accusations now. Tbilisi has said Saakashvili is receiving medical care and isn’t a political prisoner.

Georgia, a former Soviet state, has treaded a nice line since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Its ruling Georgian Dream celebration has shut ties with Moscow and has refused to impose financial sanctions on the Kremlin, however its folks have protested in solidarity with Ukraine and towards what many say is rising authoritarianism of their nation.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili advised The Publish on Tuesday by way of a spokeswoman that any subject dividing Georgia and Ukraine “can solely play within the palms of our widespread foe and due to this fact ought to be prevented,” including that she had deep “remorse” for the deterioration of diplomatic relations with Ukraine.

“I’ve acknowledged repeatedly that Saakashvili’s subject ought to be dealt with with full respect of his rights to a correct therapy however shouldn’t be used for fueling a marketing campaign that once more can solely profit and be exploited by Russia,” she added. Right here’s what to know.

Who’s Mikheil Saakashvili?

Saakashvili, 55, served as Georgia’s president from 2004 to 2013. He swept to energy by way of the Rose Revolution, a pro-democratic motion that ousted the president. Saakashvili was then elected to workplace with 96 percent of the vote in 2004. Educated in the US, Saakashvili gained affect in Washington and the West whereas in energy and had aspirations for the previous Soviet nation to hitch the European Union and NATO.

In workplace, he and Putin had broadly reported private animosity after a brief, disastrous war with Russia in 2008, wherein Tbilisi misplaced management of its South Ossetia area. Russia’s takeover has been legally acknowledged solely by a number of different international locations.

After serving two phrases, Saakashvili moved overseas in 2013, in a self-imposed exile in the US and Europe throughout which he was hounded by allegations of corruption and warrants for his arrest. He grew to become a Ukrainian citizen in 2o15, giving up his citizenship in Georgia, which on the time didn’t enable twin citizenship. He briefly served as governor of the southern area of Odessa, in a interval when many Georgians have been sympathetic to pro-democracy actions in Ukraine, earlier than he stop.

He was stripped of that citizenship in 2017 by former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko as a part of a political feud and deported to Poland. Zelensky, Poroshenko’s successor, restored it in 2019 and appointed him to move an advisory board preventing the facility of oligarchs in Ukraine, as The Washington Post previously reported.

Why is Saakashvili in jail?

Saakashvili was convicted in 2018 in absentia to a six-year jail time period for abuse of energy whereas in workplace. He denies the costs, which he says are politically motivated. He was arrested after returning to Georgia to assist native elections in October 2021, ending his eight-year exile. Human Rights Watch says the trial occurred exterior of worldwide authorized requirements.

In February, the European Parliament authorised a resolution 577-33 calling on Tbilisi to launch Saakashvili, noting that his “well being has continued to deteriorate” and that he had “misplaced a considerable quantity of weight.” It added that “persevering with failure to enhance the state of affairs” of Saakashvili represented a “blow” to Georgia’s worldwide status and would “hamper its European Union candidacy prospects.”

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What occurred to Saakashvili in jail?

The decision famous that the previous president went on hunger strikes whereas in jail however that a few of his medical signs have been “in line with heavy steel poisoning whereas in detention, contributing to his quickly declining well being.”

Saakashvili attended a court docket look by way of videoconference Monday the place he lifted his shirt to disclose a gaunt torso to the digicam.

Regardless of his modified look, he mentioned he felt “spiritually match,” and a statement on his official social media accounts later mentioned he needed to reside “to look at and take part within the eventual collapse of the Russian Empire.”

In February, Amnesty Worldwide and Human Rights Watch accused Georgia’s authorities of denying the previous president “ample medical care, placing him at grave threat of loss of life,” in a joint statement. They mentioned two impartial medical groups had concluded that Saakashvili “has developed numerous life-threatening well being situations whereas in custody” and misplaced greater than 110 kilos whereas in jail.

Georgian authorities beforehand advised rights teams that Saakashvili’s well being has deteriorated because of “self-harm” attributable to a number of starvation strikes and mentioned that he’s receiving ample medical care.

What has Zelensky mentioned about Saakashvili?

Following the court docket video, Zelensky known as for Saakashvili to be instantly transferred to Kyiv. In a nightly public address Monday, he blamed the Kremlin for what he termed Saakashvili’s “demonstrative execution.”

“The world as soon as once more noticed how the Kremlin — sadly, by the hands of the present Georgian authorities — is killing Ukrainian citizen Mykhailo Saakashvili,” Zelensky mentioned, utilizing an alternate spelling. “Human life is the best worth, and we can’t enable Mykhailo to be merely killed.”

Zelensky known as on European governments to “save this man” and on Tbilisi to switch him to Kyiv for “the required therapy and care.”

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Zelensky additionally mentioned he had instructed Ukraine’s international minister to summon Georgia’s ambassador to Ukraine on Tuesday “to precise our protest.” He would additionally give him 48 hours to depart Ukraine to “maintain consultations along with his capital” concerning the difficulty.

Ukraine’s international minister, Dmytro Kuleba, posted on Telegram that the summoned Georgian ambassador would face a “powerful dialog” as he additionally known as for Saakashvili’s return.

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has called for Saakashvili’s launch on well being grounds and for the Biden administration to place extra strain on Tbilisi.

Georgia’s and Russia’s international ministries didn’t instantly reply to requests from The Publish.

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Inna Lazareva contributed to this report.

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