Ukraine’s Zelenskiy summons Georgian ambassador over ailing ex-president

(Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday he would summon Georgia’s ambassador to Ukraine over what he decried as the “public execution” of that country’s jailed former president who had appeared unwell and severely emaciated at a court hearing.

In his nightly video message, Zelenskiy urged Georgian authorities to allow Mikheil Saakashvili, who holds Ukrainian citizenship, to come to Kyiv for medical treatment.

“The world once again has witnessed how the Kremlin, sadly at the hands of the Georgian government, is killing Mikheil Saakashvili,” Zelenskiy said.

“Ukraine has repeatedly called on the Georgian authorities to stop this public execution,” he said. “No authority in Europe has the right to execute people. Life is a fundamental European value.”

Zelenskiy said he had asked Ukraine’s foreign ministry to summon the Georgian ambassador and propose that the diplomat return home for 48 hours for consultations on the matter.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, writing on Telegram, said the ambassador would be summoned on Tuesday for a “tough conversation” and called on Georgia to end its “mockery” of the former president.

It was not clear whether the ambassador was being expelled.

Saakashvili, who served as president of ex-Soviet Georgia from 2004 to 2013, is serving a six-year sentence for abuse of power, a charge he and his supporters say was politically motivated.

In a video shot during a court hearing, an emaciated Saakashvili lifted his shirt to show protruding ribs while judges deliberated at another site.

Saakashvili has asked to be transferred abroad for treatment. He has staged multiple hunger strikes while in prison and alleges he has been poisoned.

The 55-year-old Saakashvili secured Ukrainian citizenship while working under previous Ukrainian government administrations in a variety of capacities.

He was originally tried and sentenced in absentia for abuse of power on cases related to presidential pardons issued while he was in office, and for allegedly ordering the beating of a political opponent.

He is currently on trial on separate charges of violently dispersing an anti-government rally in November 2007.

Saakashvili swept to power in 2004 after Georgia’s pro-democracy Rose Revolution ousted his predecessor. He launched anti-corruption reforms, but his outspoken nature frequently upset opponents.

He returned to Georgia in 2021 on the eve of local elections and was arrested soon after entering the country.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski; Editing by Bill Berkrot)