In Ukraine

By The Associated Press, Dec 11, 2017

KIEV, Ukraine — The former president of Georgia who became an opposition leader in Ukraine walked free on Monday after a court in the Ukrainian capital refused to authorize his arrest, and he vowed to push for a peaceful change of government.

Mikheil Saakashvili in court with supporters in Kyiv on Dec 11, 2017; to his left is former PM Yulia Tymoshenko (photo by Efrem Lukatsky, AP)

The sudden turn of events for the former Georgia president, Mikheil Saakashvili, came three days after his arrest on allegations that he had colluded with Ukrainian businessmen tied to Russia to topple President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine, accusations that Mr. Saakashvili rejected.

“I consider myself a prisoner of Ukrainian oligarchs,” he said in what appeared to be a reference to the business background of Mr. Poroshenko, who ran a chocolate business before he was elected.

Prosecutors had asked to keep Mr. Saakashvili under house arrest, but the judge turned down the request, prompting applause by Mr. Saakashvili’s supporters.

The court’s verdict was a defeat for Mr. Poroshenko, who has faced mounting criticism for his failure to uproot endemic corruption.

Mr. Saakashvili said after the verdict that he would coordinate with other political forces in Ukraine to push for a peaceful change of government.

On December 10, thousands of Mr. Saakashvili’s supporters marched across Kiev, the capital, demanding Mr. Saakashvili’s release and calling for Mr. Poroshenko’s impeachment.

Mr. Saakashvili was a key figure in the 2003 protests that drove President Eduard A. Shevardnadze of Georgia from office. He served two terms as Georgia’s president from 2004 to 2013, winning acclaim for his anti-corruption efforts but drawing criticism over a disastrous war with Russia and what his opponents saw as an authoritarian streak.

Mr. Poroshenko named him the governor of the Odessa region of Ukraine in 2015, but he resigned the next year, claiming that Mr. Poroshenko and other officials were impeding anti-corruption reforms, and he became a strong critic of his former patron.

Georgia stripped Mr. Saakashvili of his citizenship after his move to Ukraine. Mr. Poroshenko this summer rescinded his Ukrainian citizenship while Mr. Saakashvili was out of the country, leaving him stateless.

He forced his way into Ukraine in September, barging across the border from Poland with the help of a crowd of supporters.



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