Ex-Georgian President Escapes Custody In Dramatic Confrontation In Kiev : The Two-Way : NPR

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Former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (center) greets his supporters after escaping a van headed for jail in Kiev on Tuesday.

Evgeniy Maloletka/AP


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Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

Former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (center) greets his supporters after escaping a van headed for jail in Kiev on Tuesday.

Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

Around dawn Tuesday, masked Ukrainian law enforcement officers attempted to detain former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. By sunset, they still had not succeeded. In the hours between, chaos consumed several streets in Kiev, where hundreds of supporters rallied to Saakashvili’s defense as he sought to escape law enforcement and broadcast his calls for resistance against the Ukrainian president.

The Security Service of Ukraine now has given Saakashvili until Wednesday morning to turn himself in for allegedly assisting criminal organizations. The country’s prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, has demanded the controversial politician come in for questioning, calling him a “fugitive from justice,” according to The Guardian.

Given the drama that unfolded at his apartment building Tuesday, however, it’s unlikely that Saakashvili plans to make this process easy on Ukrainian authorities.

The day began with agents storming Saakashvili’s apartment building in downtown Kiev. He initially escaped their grasp by fleeing to the building’s rooftop, where he shouted to supporters who had already begun to mass on the street below. There, with emphatic gestures fit for a campaign rally, he protested his treatment by President Petro Poroshenko, a former ally whom he now casts as a corrupt thief of Ukrainian funds.

“They want to kidnap me, because I rallied to the Ukrainian people’s defense,” he told them, as translated by The New York Times. “They wanted to kidnap me unnoticed, but they failed to do this.”

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Indeed, if Ukrainian officials had expected Saakashvili’s detainment to go smoothly and quickly, they were to be disappointed on both counts.

By the time officers had wrangled the former Georgian president and pushed him into the van waiting to transport him to jail, a large, restive crowd was waiting for them, too. For more than an hour, Saakashvili’s supporters refused to budge from around the van, despite attempts by a substantial riot police contingent to dislodge them.

Eventually, those supporters broke into the vehicle and wrenched the man free.

Ukrainian Security Service officers pushed Mikhail Saakashvili into a van parked outside his apartment building, although they were outnumbered by a crowd of his supporters.

Evgeniy Maloletka/AP (2): Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP/Getty Images


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Evgeniy Maloletka/AP (2): Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP/Getty Images

The Times describes what happened next:

“With a Ukrainian flag draped across his shoulders and a pair of handcuffs still attached to one of his wrists, Mr. Saakashvili then led hundreds of supporters in a march across Kiev toward Parliament. Speaking through a bullhorn, he called for ‘peaceful protests’ to remove Mr. Poroshenko from office, just as protests had toppled the former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, in February 2014.”

The scene recalled an opposition rally this past weekend in Kiev’s Independence Square, where thousands of demonstrators listened as Saakashvili called for the establishment of a permanent protest camp against the Ukrainian president. On Tuesday, he repeated his calls for Poroshenko’s ouster: “I urge you” to remove him, Saakashvili said through his bullhorn. “You should not be afraid.”

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