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Saakashvili’s announcement of new relationship ‘unexpected’ to his wife

6 October 2021
Mikheil Saakashvili announced his relationship with Lisa Yasko in a video posted by Yasko on Facebook.

The former First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Roelofs, has broken her silence on her relationship with Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, stating that his announcement of a new relationship with a Ukrainian MP was ‘unexpected’. 

Around an hour after Saakashvili, who is 53, was arrested in Georgia, Lisa Yasko, a 31-year-old parliamentarian from Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People party, published a video on Facebook in which Saakashvili spoke about ‘starting a new life’ with her, explaining it in Georgian, Ukrainian, and English languages.

Roelofs, who reiterated on Wednesday that Saakashvili was a political prisoner in Georgia while calling his arrival in Georgia ‘heroic’, admitted that many had asked her about her private life.

‘I won’t hide that the content of the video published on Friday evening was unexpected for me, and the way it was done — entirely unacceptable’, Roelofs said. 

Saakashvili married Dutch-born Sandra Roelofs in 1993 and the couple has two sons together.

Sandra Roelofs during the May 2019 by-election in Zugdidi. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Roelofs’s comment came a day after Saakashvili’s new partner arrived in Georgia and visited him in prison in Rustavi, a city adjacent to the capital, Tbilisi.

‘We are very envious of Georgia having had a president like this. He is also a Ukrainian politician. I want that you defend him’, Yasko told journalists after leaving the prison, saying no word about her relationship with Saakashvili. 

Yasko also remained silent during their 1 October video together in which Saakashvili announced his ‘new family’ with her, while adding he was ‘grateful for the previous relationship’. 

Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested in Tbilisi on 1 October on the eve of local elections. He announced he was on hunger strike soon after vowing not to stop until he was freed. 

Roelofs has also been supportive of Saakashvili throughout his political career in Ukraine, including his arrest in December 2017 after which Saakashvili also announced a hunger strike. 

Long-time companion-in-arms

After being the first lady for almost 10 years, the Dutch-born Roelofs entered politics after Saakashvili fled the country in 2013, remaining closely associated with his United National Movement party.

During the October 2016 parliamentary elections, Roelofs sent the majoritarian race in Zugdidi, in the west-Georgian region of Samegrelo, to a runoff by garnering 45% of votes. She eventually boycotted the second round against Georgian Dream’s Edisher Toloraia.

Her decision to boycott the second round widened a rift within the party’s leadership, with some stating that Saakashvili was behind his wife’s decision, a claim Roelofs labelled sexist.

In May 2019, Roelofs unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Zugdidi. Fluent in Georgian and speaking some of the local Mingrelian language, she represented the UNM-dominated United Opposition — Power in Unity coalition. 

She lost to Georgian Dream’s Gega Shengelia by 54% to 43%.

During the campaign, she was targeted with sexist slurs, street posters, and hateful online posts.

'I would advise her to take care of her spouse while we'll take care of the country', current Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, who was Georgian Dream’s Political Secretary at the time, stated after Roelofs lost to Shengelia in May 2019.

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