Ukraine has summoned the Georgian Ambassador to the country and ordered him to return to Georgia to consult with his government over Ukraine’s demand to hand over Mikheil Saakashvili.
On Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky again called on the Georgian authorities to hand over the imprisoned third president of Georgia, who holds Ukrainian citizenship.
Zelensky said that Georgian Ambassador Giorgi Zakarashvili would be asked to return to Georgia within 48 hours.
In a tweet on Monday, Zelensky attached an image of Saakashvili from his remote court appearance on 3 July, in which the former president had visibly lost weight.
Since his arrest in October 2021, Saakashvili has several times gone on hunger strike leading to his transfer to a hospital in Tbilisi, where he remains.
‘Once again, I call on the Georgian authorities to hand over Ukrainian citizen Mykhailo Saakashvili to Ukraine for the necessary treatment and care’, Zelensky wrote.
Right now, Russia is killing Ukrainian citizen Mykhailo Saakashvili at the hands of the Georgian authorities.
We have repeatedly called on the official Tbilisi to stop this abuse and agree on Saakashvili's return to Ukraine. Our partners, in coordination with Ukraine, have also… pic.twitter.com/Gzvl4zJPR1
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) July 3, 2023
While Saakashvili’s United National Movement Party supported the request, members of the ruling Georgian Dream party dismissed it outright.
Party chair Irakli Kobakhidze told journalists on Tuesday that the Ukrainian government’s position was ‘offensive’.
‘It was insulting in itself that, as our opponents themselves admitted, specific high-ranking officials of the Ukrainian government were involved in sending Saakashvili to Georgia, and today, when the same government demands Saakashvili’s return to Ukraine, this, of course, shows the signs of an insult’
‘However, I don’t want to go deeper than that. Our desire is to remain even in a one-sided friendship mode with the Ukrainian authorities, because this country is currently in a state of war’, said Kobakhidze.
Relations between Ukraine and Georgia have been strained since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
On 1 March 2022, Ukraine recalled their ambassador to Georgia over what they said was the Georgian Government’s ‘immoral position’, as well as Georgia’s decision to block a charter flight scheduled to bring Georgian volunteer fighters to Ukraine.
Since then, relations have continued to deteriorate.
Shortly before Zelensky’s statement on Monday, Georgian media reported that Georgia’s Foreign Ministry had met with Ukrainian diplomats to demand an explanation for Ukraine’s sanctioning of Georgian Airways.
Georgia’s flag carrier restored flights with Russia in May after Russian authorities lifted a flight ban with Georgia.
Saakashvili returned to Georgia from Ukraine in October 2021 and was arrested the day before local elections. He is serving a six-year sentence for abuse of office and faces several other charges relating to his time in power.
[Read on OC Media: The 2007 crackdown — Saakashvili’s greatest mistake?]