Ukrainian opposition leader in the Netherlands after deportation


At a news conference in Warsaw on Tuesday, Saakashvili described his detention in Kiev by armed, masked men and immediate expulsion to neighboring Poland as a violation of worldwide laws and vowed to continue encouraging Ukrainians to oppose authorities he described as "corrupt elites".

The deportation appears to bring an abrupt end to a months-long cat-and-mouse game between Saakashvili and the Ukrainian authorities, which saw street unrest during previous attempts to arrest him.

The former Ukrainian opposition leader is married to a Dutch woman, Sandra Roelofs.

Slobodyan said law enforcement officials were obliged to use force while detaining Saakashvili in Kiev as his supporters had attacked them.

In a statement, Saakashvili denounced President Petro Poroshenko.

Saakashvili, a former governor of Ukraine's Odessa region, was once an ally of Poroshenko, but then became one of his greatest foes.

The Ukrainian government refrained from arresting Saakashvili to avoid turning the former Georgian politician into a cause celebre, and to avoid worldwide condemnation for holding a political prisoner. Saakashvili resigned from the post in 2016, decrying what he described as high-level corruption in the government.

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Saakashvili also faces criminal charges in Ukraine.

Exile in Poland would hardly stop Saakashvili from campaigning against Poroshenko, but it seems to have been considered the least damaging for Ukraine's image.

The second option would have had a similar effect, since Saakashvili faces prison in Georgia for what he calls politically-motivated charges over abuse of presidential office with his pardon powers.

On Tuesday, Saakashvili appealed for help to the European Union and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Kiev's Western allies may also "raise questions about selective justice" in Ukraine, and the arrest could have a "negative impact" on Poroshenko's image overseas, said Sergiy Solodkyi, deputy director of the Kiev-based New Europe think-tank.

"We expect the rule of law as well as the rights of Saakashvili to be upheld", Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.