A video showing Georgia’s imprisoned former president, Mikheil Saakashvili, in a visibly weakened state has sparked a diplomatic dispute between Georgia and Ukraine, with the latter accusing its traditional ally of acting under Russia’s influence, Financial Times reports.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested the Georgian ambassador to Kyiv to return to Tbilisi within 48 hours to discuss transferring Saakashvili to Ukraine for medical treatment. However, Irakli Kobakhidze, chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, dismissed the possibility of such a transfer.
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Saakashvili, a pro-western figure, was arrested in October 2021 after nearly a decade abroad and sentenced to a six-year term for alleged abuse of office. His deteriorating health has led to public outcry in Georgia and the West.
Implications for Georgia’s EU Aspirations
The treatment of Saakashvili and attempts to pass Kremlin-inspired laws have cast a shadow over Georgia’s ambition to join the EU. The European Commission last year placed Georgia in the slow lane of EU accession, requiring it to enact a series of reforms before being granted official candidate status.