The Slatest

Ex-Georgian President Escapes Police Custody After Rooftop Chase in Ukraine

TOPSHOT - Former Georgian Mikheil Saakashvili (C-L) is seen after he was released by his supporters in downtown Kiev on December 5, 2017.
Ukrainian security services on December 5 arrested former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili after he climbed onto the roof of his apartment building and addressed supporters during a police raid. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said Saakashvili had been arrested on charges of assisting criminal organisations. / AFP PHOTO / Sergei CHUZAVKOV        (Photo credit should read SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Georgian Mikheil Saakashvili is seen after he was released by his supporters in downtown Kiev on December 5, 2017. SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/Getty Images

Mikheil Saakashvili had an interesting day. The former Georgian president and Putin foe who’s currently in the middle of an unlikely second act as a Ukrainian opposition leader and international fugitive had a dramatic standoff with the authorities after state security officers tried to arrest him at his apartment in Kiev. Saakashvili led them on a rooftop chase and at one point threatened to jump off his apartment building. After he was dragged away by the masked officers and put in a van, the vehicle was surrounded by his supporters who broke him out, despite attempts by the police to use teargas to disperse the crowd.

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Saakashvili  then led his supporters to parliament where he gave a speech denouncing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as “the head of an organized crime gang.”

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What is this all about? Saakashvili first burst onto the world stage leading the pro-Western Rose Revolution in his native Georgia in 2003, after which he served as president of Georgia from 2004-2013. As president, he was lauded for liberal reforms but criticized for his increasingly autocratic governance. His fierce opposition to Putin culminated in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, during which Georgia was invaded by Russian troops and lost territory. Saakashvili left office—and the country—in 2014, and is currently facing charges in Georgia that he says were trumped up by his political enemies.

After a brief period hanging out in cafes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Saakashvili got a second act in politics in 2015 after Poroshenko, who took power after Ukraine’s pro-western uprising, made him governor of Odessa and granted him Ukrainian citizenship. But the two men fell out and Saakashvili quit last year, blaming Poroshenko for the slow pace of reform in Ukraine. Saakashvili was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in July, making him effectively stateless since he lost his Georgian citizenship when he took the Ukrainian one.

In September, he dramatically barged over the Poland-Ukrainian border back into Ukraine with a crowd of supporters. He now seems intent on leading a new color revolution, calling on Ukrainians to set up a protest camp in the capital unless Poroshenko is impeached. It’s not clear what crime he’s being charged with or if he would be tried in Ukraine or deported back to Georgia to face charges there, but today’s great escape will certainly help his revolutionary cred.

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