Unidentified armed men, believed to be Ukrainian law enforcement personnel, detained opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili in Kyiv on Monday, February 12. According to local reports, Saakashvili was arrested around 15:00 (local time) while eating at a restaurant near the headquarters of his New Forces party. A number of Saakashvili’s allies confirmed his arrest and called for supporters to rally near the restaurant. Government officials have not commented on the incident as of Monday afternoon. Protests against Saakashvili’s arrest may occur in the coming hours and days.
Tensions are high in Kyiv amid an ongoing political crisis centered on opposition leader, and former Odessa governor and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Police officials have accused Saakashvili of organizing protests funded by organized crime groups tied to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych; he has denied the charges. Police attempted to arrest Saakashvili on December 5, but he was freed following clashes between police and his supporters. He was arrested again on December 8, triggering additional protests and clashes between protesters and police. He was released on December 11.
Saakashvili is an ardent opponent of corruption in Ukraine and is calling for sweeping political reforms. In October, Saakashvili led several days of protests outside parliament, calling for the creation of independent anti-corruption courts. At least four people were wounded in clashes between police and demonstrators.
Individuals in Kyiv are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all demonstrations as a precaution, obey any instructions issued by the local authorities, and anticipate increased travel times due to traffic congestion and increased security measures surrounding potential protests. Due to the underlying terrorist threat amid the ongoing high sociopolitical tensions, remain vigilant and report any suspicious objects or behavior to the local authorities or your security officer.