KYIV — A close ally of Mikheil Saakashvili says the opposition politician has arrived in Poland after being deported from Ukraine amid reports he had been detained by “kidnappers” in Kyiv.
“He called! He is in Warsaw,” David Sakvarelidze wrote on his Faceboook page late on February 12.
Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for the State Border Guard Service, said in a post on Facebook that the action was carried out on February 12 because Saakashvili was “in violation of Ukrainian law.” Slobodian did not specicifally say where Saakashvili was being sent, but he entered Ukraine from Poland.
“This person was on Ukrainian territory illegally and therefore, in compliance with all legal procedures, he was returned to the country from where he arrived,” Slobodyan said.
Polish border police confirmed in a statement that Saakashvili had arrived in the Polish capital and that “the basis for the admission decision was a readmission application submitted by the National Migration Service of Ukraine to the commander-in-chief of the Border Guards.”
“Taking into account the fact that M. Saakashvili is a spouse of a citizen of a member state of the European Union, the request of the Ukrainian side was considered positively,” it added. Saakashvili’s wife, Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs-Saakashvili, was born in the Netherlands and has Dutch citizenship.
Sakvarelidze said earlier on Facebook that Saakashvili was detained at a Georgian restaurant near the headquarters of his New Forces party in the Ukrainian capital.
A post on Saakashvili’s Facebook page said he was detained by unidentified men in masks and taken away. “The kidnappers were in three white Volkswagen minivans,” it said.
A short video clip showed gun-toting men in camouflage struggling with a man inside a restaurant and shouting at him to lie down and stay down. One of the armed men kicks the man when he is prone.
Slobodyan noted in his statement that border guards “had to defend themselves using force” against some individuals associated with Saakashvili. He gave no further details.
Unlike the street protests that allowed Saakashvili to escape police custody in December, there were no immediate signs of public demonstrations against the move by security officials.
But Sakvarelidze vowed opposition to President Petro Poroshenko would continue unabated.
Saakashvili spokeswoman Daryna Chyzh said in a post on her Facebook page that he was taken to Borispyl International Airport on the eastern outskirts of Kyiv.
“It was a mistake by Poroshenko and his people to abduct Saakashvili. Poroshenko must understand that even if Mikheil is out of the country, his plan to hold rallies on February 18 will be implemented no matter what. I do not know exactly where they keep him now,” Sakvarelidze said.
The developments came a week after a court rejected an appeal by the former Georgian president for protection against possible extradition.
Saakashvili’s backers expressed concern that the ruling increased the chances that he would be handed over to Georgia, where he is wanted on charges he says are fabricated, or deported to another country.
The reformist president of Georgia from 2004-2013, Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015, when he accepted Ukrainian citizenship and Poroshenko’s offer of a job as governor of the Odesa region.
But he resigned from the post in November 2016, accusing the government of undermining his efforts to fight corruption and carry out reforms.
Saakashvili has become an outspoken opponent of Poroshenko, who came to power after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych fled amid massive protests known the Euromaidan in 2014.
In July 2017, Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship while he was abroad.
In September, Saakashvili defied a border blockade and crossed from Poland into Ukraine, where he has been leading anti-Poroshenko protests and struggle against the state in a series of court cases.
Ukrainian authorities accused Saakashvili of abetting an alleged “criminal group” led by Yanukovych, and claim the protests he has led are part of a Russian plot against the government in Kyiv.
Saakashvili has denied all the charges, calling them “absurd” and politically motivated.