Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made his first appearance at a court session in an online format after a prolonged hiatus. On July 3, the court viewed the case against Saakashvili for his role in dispersing a 2007 rally.

A video presented during the session depicted the significant weight loss Saakashvili had experienced during his hospitalization. Throughout his imprisonment, he went on hunger strike eight times. Currently, Saakashvili is receiving treatment at a local clinic.

President Volodymyr Zelensky swiftly responded to the situation, expressing concern for Saakashvili’s condition. He reiterated Kyiv’s repeated appeals to Tbilisi to cease the mistreatment of the former Georgian president and to facilitate his return to Ukraine.

Zelensky commented, “Right now, Russia is killing Ukrainian citizen Mikheil Saakashvili at the hands of the Georgian authorities... I call on our partners to turn around, not ignore this situation, and save this person. No power in Europe has the right to execute people; life is a fundamental European value.”

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President Zelensky instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to summon the Georgian Ambassador to Kyiv Giorgi Zakarshvili and request his departure from Ukraine within 48 hours.

Georgian authorities reacted unfavorably to Ukraine’s decision. Irakli Kobakhidze, the head of the country’s ruling Georgian Dream party, stated that no consultations regarding Saakashvili can be initiated.

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“In light of the actions already taken, further steps are no longer of interest. It is a lamentable reality. No consultations regarding Saakashvili can be pursued,” quoted the Georgian news aPershiy Kanal from  Kobakhidze’s remarks.

Kobakhidze said that unlike many others, including ambassadors of Ukraine’s strategic partners, the Georgian ambassador has remained in Kyiv since the onset of the full-scale war.

“Such a measure by the Ukrainian authorities is insulting, profoundly disheartening, and regrettable,” Kobakhidze said.

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“We will refrain from providing comments. We choose to maintain a one-sided friendship with the Ukrainian authorities.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia responded strongly to Ukraine’s decision, considering it not only “incomprehensible” but also “an extreme escalation of diplomatic relations.”

In a statement, the Georgian Foreign Ministry expressed deep regret over Kyiv’s actions, deeming it an unfriendly step against a friendly nation and its people.

The ministry referred to the decision of the Strasbourg Court, which “put an end to speculations about the state of health of the convicted Mikheil Saakashvili, which once again confirmed the highest standards of protection of the former president’s rights by the state.”

The Georgian ministry asserted that Ukraine’s decision severely damages the strategic relations between the two countries and constitutes direct interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Nonetheless, they expressed hope that Kyiv would reconsider its stance.

The Georgian ambassador had a meeting with the deputy minister at the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday. The Ukrainian side demanded that the ambassador leave the country within 48 hours for consultations regarding Saakashvili, citing the unacceptable treatment of the prisoner and urging the Georgian authorities to cease their mistreatment.

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 “We, of course, agreed, because it was a demand and a request of the President of Ukraine,” Zakarashvili said on his visit to the ministry. 

He conveyed Georgia’s official position and reiterated that Tbilisi did not harbor inappropriate attitudes toward Saakashvili.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry emphasized that, given Ukraine’s active involvement in the war, they would refrain from any further reaction to the expulsion of their diplomat.

“At this stage, the Georgian side refrains from any additional reaction in response to Ukraine's steps and further aggravation of bilateral relations with it, which will bring the current and already difficult situation to a dead end,” the ministry said. 

Saakashvili was detained in Georgia on October 1, 2021, and faced multiple criminal cases, including one related to the 2005 attack on former Georgian deputy Valery Gelashvili.

Saakashvili was tried in absentia and sentenced to six years in prison.

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