Russia/Ukraine politics: Quick View - Court postpones ruling on Saakashvili's fate

Content Type
Country Data and Maps
Institution
Economist Intelligence Unit
Abstract
No abstract is available.
Topic
Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Political stability
Political Geography
Russia, Ukraine

Event

On January 3rd a court in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, postponed making a ruling on whether Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president and former governor of the Odessa province, should be placed under house arrest to January 11th.

Analysis

In early December 2017, after several earlier attempts, Mr Saakashvili was arrested in Kiev. However, on December 11th a district court in Kiev turned down the prosecutor's motion to put Mr Saakashvili under house arrest, prompting his release pending another audience. An audience was held on January 3rd, and a ruling is expected on January 11th. If Mr Saakashvili is placed in custody again, the Ukrainian authorities may honour an extradition request from Georgia, where Mr Saakashvili is wanted in absentia for abuse of office.

Prosecutors accuse Mr Saakashvili of planning a coup d'├ętat in Ukraine with the help of Russia. They also suspect him of colluding with an oligarch from the inner circle of the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in early 2014. Mr Saakashvili denies all charges, which he claims have been fabricated with the help of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

Mr Saakashvili positioned himself as a challenger to Petro Poroshenko, the president, in 2016. In August 2017, while abroad, he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship; however, he subsequently forced his way back into the country. His eventual arrest followed several botched attempts. Mr Saakashvili and his party, the Movement of New Forces (MNF), staged several protests throughout the final quarter of 2017 to demand the impeachment of Mr Poroshenko, as well as anti-corruption reforms. Each of the protests attracted about 5,000 people. Despite some clashes with the police, this low turnout means that these protests do not appear to threaten political stability.

Although Mr Saakashvili remains unable to move from the 1% mark in opinion polls, these events have won him copious amounts of airtime, thereby boosting his profile. Mr Poroshenko needs to deliver a balanced response to Mr Saakashvili's actions: if Mr Saakashvili is treated too harshly by the authorities, Ukraine can expect renewed criticism from its international partners.

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