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7 Apr, 2023 22:36

Ex-president urges West to sanction Georgia

Doing so would deliver a blow to Vladimir Putin and prove the US and the EU remain committed to "democracy," Mikhail Saakashvili claims
Ex-president urges West to sanction Georgia

The West should impose sweeping economic sanctions and embargoes on Georgia, the country’s jailed former president Mikhail Saakashvili has said.

He claimed that doing so would secure his release from prison, while reasserting the status of the US and its allies as beacons of "democracy, decency and justice," and delivering "another blow" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Saakashvili set out his views on Friday in a piece written for Politico, titled: ‘I am a political prisoner in Georgia, and I am dying.’ The article largely focuses on his purported struggle against Putin, with the ex-leader claiming he continues "to defend democracy against Putin and his allies" even from his jail cell.

Saakashvili argued that "democracy" is again under threat in Georgia and elsewhere, accusing the ruling Georgian Dream party of doing Putin’s bidding and showing "solidarity with Russia."

The government, which has abstained from joining anti-Russia sanctions over the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, should do more to support Ukraine, he wrote.

"While there is, of course, legitimate apprehension about being openly hostile to the Kremlin given the danger Georgia faces, the vast majority of Georgians support the Ukrainian cause," Saakashvili asserted.

The former president, who rose to power in 2003 after the US-backed Rose Revolution and ruled Georgia until late 2013, defended his own record of establishing "democracy" in Georgia, noting that "after just months in power," he "was praised by leaders in Europe and the US for championing democracy and free markets."

Having fled the country after his second term in office, Saakashvili briefly relocated to the US, but moved to Ukraine just two years later, taking the role of governor of Odessa Region under then-president Pyotr Poroshenko.

Saakashvili returned to Georgia in late 2021, was arrested, and has remained behind bars ever since, with several pending criminal cases over alleged abuse of power and other offenses.

Several senior Georgian officials have alleged the ex-president was deliberately sent in by Kiev to destabilize the situation in the country, and even stage a coup.

The former leader also implied that the Russian president wants him to die in jail, claiming that his "martyrdom will certainly be considered a victory for Putin – a powerful symbol to all leaders in this region, and possibly the world, who fail to stand up to Russian imperialism."

Securing his release through putting pressure on Tbilisi, on the contrary, would deal a blow to the Russian president, Saakashvili asserted.

"If, however, the US Congress and the Biden administration can work with the EU to secure my release through sanctions, economic embargoes, the suspension of funding and visa restrictions, it will not only be another blow to Putin, but it will also send a strong signal that the US and Europe remain committed to the ideals of democracy, decency and justice," Saakashvili concluded.