Saakashvili: Supporters free ex-Georgia leader from Ukraine police

Georgian former President Mikheil Saakashvili struggles out of a police car in KievImage copyright

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Mr Saakashvili was removed from the police van by his supporters

Supporters of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili have freed him from a police van in Ukraine after his detention on suspicion of assisting a criminal organisation.

Mr Saakashvili urged his supporters in the capital, Kiev, to impeach President Petro Poroshenko, a former ally.

He was made a Ukrainian citizen in 2015, which made him lose his Georgian citizenship.

Mr Saakashvili has become a fierce opponent of Mr Poroshenko.

He has accused the president of failing to root out corruption.

With one hand in handcuffs and surrounded by hundreds of people, Mr Saakashvili urged his supporters to march to the Ukrainian parliament.

“I urge you to start a peaceful protest to remove Poroshenko. You should not be afraid,” he said through a loudspeaker.

Officials have not commented on Mr Saakashvili’s escape. Earlier, masked officers dragged Mr Saakashvili, 49, from his home.

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A triumphant Mr Saakashvili greets supporters after being freed

Mr Saakashvili’s detention was part of an operation “to disrupt a plan of revenge of pro-Kremlin forces in Ukraine”, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said.

He is suspected of receiving financing from a criminal group linked to former President Viktor Yanukovich, Mr Lutsenko added.

Mr Saakashvili could face up to five years in jail if found guilty.

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Earlier, National Guard officers and Mr Saakashvili’s supporters clashed in Kiev

Mr Saakashvili is now a stateless person, as his Ukrainian citizenship was removed by Mr Poroshenko after a falling out. Mr Saakashvili has accused the president of blocking efforts to stop corruption.

He faces the threat of extradition to Georgia, where he is wanted on corruption charges. He claims the accusations are politically motivated.

He previously served as governor of the Odessa region after being appointed by Mr Poroshenko in 2015.

Before moving to Ukraine, Mr Saakashvili served for almost 10 years as president of Georgia.

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