Former Georgia president Mikheil Saakashvili has been freed by protesters after a dramatic arrest on the rooftop of his Kiev flat amid a feud with Ukraine’s president.
The authorities had seized the firebrand politician, who served as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region between 2015-16, on accusations of trying to overthrow the government of his former ally Petro Poroshenko.
But the botched arrest only galvanised support for Mr Saakashvili and led to ongoing demonstrations in the capital and a criminal case against his sympathisers in parliament.
Mr Saakashvili had climbed onto the roof of his eight-storey building in downtown Kiev and threatened to jump when heavily armed security forces stormed his flat on Tuesday morning.
“Poroshenko is a thief! Poroshenko is a traitor to Ukraine!” he yelled before the troopers seized him and put him in a van.
But protesters blocked the vehicle with other cars and makeshift barricades as the police attempted to quell the unrest with tear gas.
After an hours-long impasse, the crowd broke open a side door and freed Mr Saakashvili. With handcuffs still hanging off one wrist, he called for protests to remove “Poroshenko and his whole gang” and led hundreds to the parliament building.
While Mr Saakashvili addressed protesters outside, prosecutor general Yury Lutsenko told parliament that the Georgian ex-president had received $500,000 from a “criminal gang” led by former president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia amid protests in 2014. This was part of “Moscow’s plan for a Russian winter in Kiev,” he said.
Mr Lutsenko played the MPs what he said was a recording of Mr Saakashvili agreeing to send a representative to meet Yanukovych associate Sergei Kurchenko, who was sanctioned by the European Union after departing Ukraine in 2014.
The prosecutor said a criminal case had been opened against MPs who had “obstructed” Tuesday’s arrest, including popular reformers Mustafa Nayyem and Serhiy Leshchenko.
He said Mr Saakashvili, who has denied the allegations, must turn himself in and protesters must disperse within 24 hours.
Jane Collins, a member of the European parliament from UKIP, briefly spoke outside…