This Is The Wildest Story You'll Read All Day That Features A Former President Of Georgia

It was sheer pandemonium in Kiev on Tuesday as supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili refused to let the police cart him away.

This is Mikheil Saakashvili. He has what one would generally describe as a colorful history, one that led on Tuesday to a clash between his supporters and police that took the internet by storm.

Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Saakashvili used to be president of Georgia (yes, the country) and was deeply unpopular when he left office in 2013 — but still praised for actually doing so in a region where that's kind of a rarity. He retired to Williamsburg (yes, in Brooklyn) to reflect on his past, including his country's war against Russia in 2008, his reputation for craving the spotlight, and odd habits like chewing on his tie.

Then, in 2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — who, to put it insanely mildly, also has had a less than friendly relationship with Russia — invited Saakashvili to be a regional governor.

Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Six years after Russia went to war with Georgia, it turned to Ukraine, seizing the Crimean peninsula and meddling in the east of the country.

Ukraine also had other problems — from corruption among the political class to a less than vibrant economy — and Poroshenko hoped that Saakashvili, who he had known since they were in college, would be able to help.

But by the end of 2016, Saakashvili had resigned after a year of publicity stunts, clashes with the rest of the cabinet, and other general shenanigans. For his part, he claimed that he was stepping down because Poroshenko's allies had blocked his reform efforts.

He has spent the time since as an outspoken opponent of the Poroshenko government, with the government going so far as stripping Saakashvili of the Ukrainian citizenship he'd been granted to run Odessa.

Staff / Reuters

That didn't stop him from, in typical Saakashvili fashion, crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border by train, a stunt that the government says left several people injured. Since then, he's been bopping around the country, rallying support for his efforts to solve the country's political crisis.

On Tuesday, things came to a head when police and supporters gathered outside of Saakashvili's apartment as the authorities conducted a raid.

Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

According to the government, Saakashvili was "plotting" against the Poroshenko administration with Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-backed president of Ukraine who was run out of office in 2014.

The police and supporters of Saakashvili clashed outside the apartment almost from the jump. It seemed sure, though, that the firebrand would be in custody soon.

Sergei Supinsky / AFP / Getty Images


Stringer / Reuters

According to Ukrainian media, he threatened to jump while addressing his supporters. Which, we are told, is not normal behavior in Ukrainian politics. He also yelled that Poroshenko was “a criminal, thief, and traitor.”

Eventually, the police managed to get him off the roof, out of the building, and into the police van waiting in the streets.

Sergei Supinsky / AFP / Getty Images

BUT WAIT. The crowd wouldn't let the van pass in an all-out struggle between people and machine!

Sergei Chuzavkov / AFP / Getty Images

A drone managed to capture footage as Saakashvili wriggled his way out of the confinement of the van with the aid of his supporters, standing around like a fleet of less than gentle Ukrainian doulas.

Crazy drone video of @SaakashviliM supporters yanking him out of van detention today

Same, Mikheil. Same.

Stringer / Reuters

While all this was happening, the crowd had been pulling up bricks and stones to form barricades in the streets, either trying to prevent more police from assisting or staging a Black Sea version of Les Miserables.

Anatolii Stepanov / AFP / Getty Images

Once freed, Saakashvili led his team of liberators on a march to Ukraine's Parliament building, all the while calling for the removal of Poroshenko from power.

Sergei Chuzavkov / AFP / Getty Images

"I urge you to start a peaceful protest to remove Poroshenko, you should not be afraid of anything," he told the crowd.

The timer is still running though: Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine's prosecutor-general, has given him 24 hours to turn himself in.

Gleb Garanich / Reuters

"Currently it's not a matter of deportation or extradition. It's a matter of questioning the suspect about a particularly serious crime," Lutsenko told reporters.

But for now, at least, Saakashvili's free as a bird — or at least he will be. Surely someone has the key to the other side of that set of handcuffs.



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.