Ukrainian police have recaptured the former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was freed from police custody by his supporters in dramatic scenes earlier this week.
The development is the latest twist in a long feud between the Ukrainian authorities and Saakashvili, who has turned on his one-time patron President Petro Poroshenko, accusing him of corruption and calling for his removal from office.
Yuriy Lutsenko, the Ukrainian general prosecutor who says Saakashvili is suspected of assisting a criminal organisation, said the opposition leader had been detained by police in Kiev and was in a temporary detention facility.
“As promised, security officers did everything to avoid extreme violence and bloodshed,” he said in a post on Facebook.
A Saakashvili spokeswoman, Daria Chizh, told the Associated Press that he had been taken to a detention facility of the SBU, the national security service.
Saakashvili’s recapture follows a surreal game of hide-and-seek that saw him clamber on to a roof to avoid law enforcement, before being broken out of a police van by protesters during clashes with hundreds of riot police on Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear how his supporters would respond to his recapture on Friday, but a statement posted on his official Facebook page called for a protest at the detention centre. “Urgent. They have detained Mikheil Saakashvili,” it said.
Television footage showed a large number of police in riot gear outside the centre and a few dozen protesters, but the situation appeared relatively calm.
Saakashvili became governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region in 2015 and was granted citizenship. But he left that post, complaining that Poroshenko was blocking his anti-corruption efforts, and he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in August.
He had earlier lost his Georgian citizenship and he was outside Ukraine when Poroshenko rescinded his status. That left him stateless, but he returned to Ukraine in September, boldly barging across the border with Poland aided by a crowd of supporters.
Since then, he has tried to galvanise opposition to Poroshenko and other government figures he contends are corrupt. Although his support appeared to be comparatively small, he was able to gather several thousand people for a protest march last week.