Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called late Wednesday for the release of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is reportedly being poisoned in detention in Tbilisi.
“Right now, Ukrainian citizen, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is being slowly killed,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter, above a picture which shows an emaciated Saakashvili, pulling up his shirt to show his weight loss as he appeared at his trial through a video call.
“Ukraine offered solutions. I urge the world to help save [Saakashvili’s] life and prevent his execution,” Zelenskyy said.
The pro-Western, former Georgian president was arrested in October 2021 on abuse of power charges — which he claims are politically motivated — upon returning to his homeland from years of self-imposed exile.
Last December, medical reports seen by POLITICO showed traces of “mercury and arsenic” in his hair and nails, and lacerations “throughout his body.”
In a recorded interview with his lawyer, Saakashvili said he had lost consciousness on several occasions after being beaten by prison guards and was in fear for his life.
Saakashvili was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2015, and was briefly appointed governor of the Odesa region (south), before falling out with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who stripped his former ally’s Ukrainian citizenship in 2017.
Zelenskyy later reinstated Saakashvili’s citizenship in 2019 upon coming to power, and offered him a spot in a Ukrainian clinic last December, saying his detention was an act of cruelty.
“Given the threat to his life, I urge Georgian authorities to recall their obligations under the European human rights protection norms, stop the abuse and set [Saakashvili’s] free,” Zelenskyy concluded Wednesday.
The Georgian government has so far refused to release Saakashvili, saying it would “destabilize the country.”