Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has gone on hunger strike to protest his arrest in Ukraine on charges of trying to stage a coup sponsored by Russia, his lawyer and supporters said Saturday.
Kiev police rearrested the foe of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday after an attempt to detain him earlier in the week dramatically failed when supporters swarmed the van where he was being held.
“Saakashvili has announced an indefinite hunger strike,” journalist and close ally Vladimir Fedorin wrote on Facebook, in comments echoed by the former leader’s lawyer Ruslan Chornolutskyi to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
The 49-year-old denounced the “false accusations” against him, Chornolutskyi added.
Around 100 supporters of Saakashvili, the man who pulled Georgia out of Russia’s orbit in a 2003 revolution before becoming a governor in Ukraine, gathered outside a security service detention centre shouting “shame” on Friday following his arrest.
A court hearing on the case is expected be held in Kiev on Monday.
Prosecutors would ask for Saakashvili to be held under pretrial house arrest, prosecutor General spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said.
Since Saakashvili escaped detention on Tuesday he has continued leading protests outside parliament demanding Poroshenko’s impeachment over his failure to fight high-level corruption.
Saakashvili denies committing any crimes and says his actions have been peaceful and legal.
Tuesday’s drama marked the latest chapter in the dizzying career of a man who spearheaded a pro-Western “Rose Revolution” in Georgia in 2003 and fought a disastrous war with Russia five years later that eventually prompted him to flee the Caucasus country.
Saakashvili returned to the spotlight as a vocal champion of the three-month street uprising in Kiev that toppled a Moscow-backed government in 2014 and turned Ukraine on a pro-EU course.
Poroshenko rewarded Saakashvili for his efforts by appointing him governor of the important Black Sea region of Odessa in 2015.
But an ugly falling out between the two men saw Saakashvili stripped of his Ukrainian passport — only for him to defy the authorities and force his way back into the conflict-riven country with the help of supporters in September.