"We are closely following the development of events" - international reaction to Saakashvili's arrest
Several US congressmen, as well as the President of Ukraine and the US Department of State, made statements regarding the arrest of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
As stated by the US State Department, it closely follows the arrest of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and calls on the Georgian authorities to create appropriate conditions for the observance of the principle of equality.
“We have information about his detention, and we are closely following the development of events. We urge the Georgian authorities to create appropriate conditions for Mr. Saakashvili to enjoy the principle of equality in accordance with Georgian legislation and Georgia’s international human rights obligations”, State Department spokesman Ned Price told the Voice of America.
According to the press secretary of the President of Ukraine Sergei Nikiforov, Volodymyr Zelensky is concerned about the arrest of the former President of Georgia and citizen of Ukraine Mikhail Saakashvili:
“We are closely following the information about the arrest of Mikhail Saakashvili, chairman of the executive committee of the National Council for Reforms of Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is concerned about this news and the tone of statements made in Georgia regarding the possible development of the situation. Ukraine appeals to the Georgian side with a request to disclose all the circumstances and reasons for such a step against a citizen of Ukraine”, he wrote on Facebook.
A statement on the events in Georgia was made by the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks, and Republican Committee member Michael McCall.
“Ahead of the municipal elections this weekend, we remain concerned about the continued decline of democracy in Georgia, political polarization, and reports of electoral violence. For Georgia to meet the democratic standards of NATO, the OSCE, and the European Union, all parties must act in accordance with democratic values in these elections. We will closely observe the elections. We are waiting for the results of the OSCE observation mission and remain committed to democracy in Georgia after the election day”, the congressmen said.
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, the co-chair of the Group of Friends of Georgia in Congress, commented to VOA:
“We are looking forward to the elections in Georgia this weekend. As for me as a person who pays a lot of attention and is very interested in the future of Georgia and our friendship with Georgia, I want to say a few encouraging words. We want free and fair elections. We want candidates to be able to campaign, say whatever they want. We want the media to be free and fair to cover events. We think this can be a success for Georgia. We will be really following [the process] very closely. I also urge you to treat international observers very well. We hope to see something good and our friendship will grow even stronger”.
The statement on the arrest of the third president of Georgia was circulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania.
“Lithuania is closely following reports of the arrest of former Georgian President [Mikhail] Saakashvili in his homeland. We expect compliance with the law and appropriate procedures. We urge you to refrain from any politicized decisions”, reads a statement by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry posted on Twitter.
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Saakashvili served as president of Georgia for ten years and two terms. In 2013, after his National Movement party lost the elections and the second term of his rule ended, Saakashvili left the country and has not returned to his homeland since.
All these years he lived in Europe and the United States, then settled in Ukraine, where he was first a member of the team of ex-President Poroshenko and the governor of Odesa, and then joined the opposition.
In recent years, he has chaired the reform committee under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Saakashvili is currently not a citizen of Georgia – he automatically lost his Georgian citizenship after receiving the Ukrainian one.
Several criminal cases have been initiated against Saakashvili who is accused of abuse of power, embezzlement of budgetary funds, dispersal of the opposition rally in November 2007 and the persecution of the Imedi TV channel. Saakashvili is also involved in the beating of deputy Valery Gelashvili and the murder of Sandro Girgvliani.
Saakashvili has already been convicted on two counts. In one case, he faces six years in prison. The Georgian authorities have repeatedly stated that the wanted ex-president will be arrested as soon as he returns home.
Speaking about his visit to Georgia, Saakashvili himself stressed that he was not afraid of arrest.
On October 2, Georgia will elect local self-government bodies. However, the opposition refers to the elections as a referendum that will decide whether to hold early parliamentary elections and end the Georgian Dream’s nine-year rule in the country.