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15 December 2017

Freed Saakashvili still considers politics

Piotr Andrusieczko

Mikheil Saakashvili’s court case ended in a surprise decision- after three days spent in custody, the former president of Georgia was released. However, in this case, the word “ended” seems premature as Saakashvili’s Ukrainian soap opera is bound to continue.

The beginning of December turned out to be a very exciting time for Saakashvili, the leader of the Movement of New Forces. On December 5th the Ukrainian security service (SBU) and the representatives of the General Public Prosecutor’s Office  tried to arrest him . He was accused of collaborating with a criminal group and taking money from Serhiy Kurchenko. He is a Ukrainian oligarch escaped to Russia, against whom the Ukrainian authorities issued an arrest warrant.  Yuriy Lutsenko , the prosecutor general, however, also mentioned charges connected with a possible cooperation with the Russian special forces and helping in preparations to a coup.

Given the gravity of the charges, the detention of Saakashvili was done in a very sloppy manner. During the prolonged search of his property, the politician managed to escape to the roof of the building from where he gave a short but vigorous speech accusing Petro Poroshenko. Its footage quickly spread across the world.

Granted, the SBU officers eventually succeeded in removing the politician from the roof but failed to take him into custody. For a couple of hours, the Saakashvili’s supporters blocked all the traffic. It has to be admitted that after the Maidan, even relatively small groups are now able to stand up against the policemen and guardsmen. In this case, the protesters have quickly removed cobblestone from a part of the street.

Neither using gas against the protesters nor the police’s attempts to pull the car out worked. Or, maybe, the forces tasked with arresting Saakashvili were not determined enough? The demonstrators broke the car’s windows and released their leader.  After a while, Saakashvili was giving another speech to the public with handcuffs hanging down from one of his hands, again, providing newsworthy scenes. On the same day, the General Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an arrest warrant against him. Saakashvili, seemingly unimpressed, was at the same time addressing his supporters in a tent city nearby the Ukrainian parliament.

The next time, the police proved to be more effective than SBU and led to  Saakashvili’s arrest on 8th December 2017 . He was taken to a detention center where, immediately, his supporters gathered. Saakashvili’s collaborators announced that it was not the end of the fight.

On December 10th a march “for impeachment” took place in Kiev. It ended up in mass rallies nearby the detention center and the General Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The day after, a court session took place in Kiev where preventive measures for Saakashvili were to be decided. The Public Prosecutor’s Office asked for house arrest but after 8 hours of deliberations, the court decided to release the former president of Georgia.

PM or mayor?

Despite the early insinuations, the General Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that the only allegation against Saakashvili is working with a criminal group of Kurchenko and Yanukovich. It was also stressed, due to rising criticism, that the telephone conversations between Kurchenko and Saakashvili which had been released to the public, had not been edited. The former president of Georgia confirmed that he will voluntarily turn up to his December 18th hearing at the Prosecutor’s Office.

So far, Saakashvili has been giving interviews. In the Ukrainian “ZiK TV” station he claimed that he has no  presidential ambitions but he could become the prime minister. Earlier, he had repeatedly said, that when his relations with the president were good, he was offered the PM post but declined.

However, in a TV show on “Channel 24” he said that after successful tenure as a PM, he would like to become the mayor of Odessa.

“I would like to change the city but that can be done only if Kiev changes the ‘rules of the game’ “, said Saakashvili.

Between 2015-2016 he was the leader of the national administration of Odessa region. When he took this job, Saakashvili promised radical changes: fight against corruption in the region and attracting investors. When he resigned in the autumn of 2016, he accused the government of torpedoing his efforts and supporting corruption. However, many observers indicated that Saakashvili devoted more attention to improving his own image, than to actual work.

The leader of the New Forces Movement also believes that the Attorney General acts to the detriment of the country and should step down from his position. Saakashvili stressed that he himself, being a president twice, did not amass a fortune similar to Lutsenko’s.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin during his annual conference commented on Saakashvili’s case, saying that “it makes his blood boil”.

Asked by a correspondent of the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, he replied: “How much you have to suffer is a disgrace towards the Georgian and Ukrainian people.  This man used to be the head of independent Georgia. Now he is screaming at the top of his lungs that he is an Ukrainian. Are there no real Ukrainians in Ukraine?”.   

It is doubtful that Putin’s words will make any impression on Saakashvili who, apparently, does not intent to leave Ukrainian politics. The question remains, however, what is the role he wants to play in it?

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