Update: Detained ex-Georgian president escapes with supporters help in Ukraine; marches towards parliament

Update 12.38pm: Hundreds of protesters chanting "Kiev, rise up!" have blocked Ukrainian police as they tried to arrest former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili.

He later escaped with help from supporters and led them on a march towards parliament, where they planned to call for President Petro Poroshenko to resign.

The detention of Mr Saakashvili, now an anti-corruption crusader in his adopted home and arguably the country's most popular opposition politician, has raised fears that Ukraine could be facing its most acute political crisis since the 2014 revolution.

Ukrainian prosecutors accuse him of colluding with Ukrainian businessmen who have ties to Russian intelligence as part of an effort to topple the president.

Ukrainian Security Service officers detain Mikheil Saakashvili at his house in Kiev. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Mr Saakashvili poses a threat to Mr Poroshenko, who appointed him as governor of Ukraine's Odessa region before the two had a falling out.

In 2016 Mr Saakashvili resigned, complaining that his efforts to root out corruption were being obstructed by officials.

When the SBU, Ukraine's Security Service, went to detain Mr Saakashvili at his home in Kiev on Tuesday, he climbed on to the roof and reportedly threatened to jump off.

SBU officers went after him, detained him and led him to a waiting van.

Several hundred supporters surrounded the van, refusing to let it drive off.

Footage from the scene showed protesters picking up cobblestones and construction rubble to build barricades.

One protester climbed on top of the van and waved the Ukrainian flag.

After Mr Saakashvili escaped, he told his supporters that he would "lay down his life for the freedom of Ukraine" and called on them to follow him to the Supreme Rada.

He also called on Ukrainians to rally at Kiev's main square, the epicentre of protests in 2013 and 2014, to demand Mr Poroshenko's resignation.

Footage showed Mr Saakashvili with the yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flag around his neck marching in central Kiev, surrounded by crowds.

Earlier: Former Georgia president detained in Kiev after ’threatening to jump off roof’

Riot police have been deployed to the streets of the Ukrainian capital Kiev amid a stand-off with hundreds of protesters who had blocked a police van carrying an arrested politician.

Ukraine's intelligence agency SBU detained the former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, who has emerged as an anti-corruption campaigner in his new country.

Mr Saakashvili climbed on to the roof of his home in Kiev, drawing a crowd of supporters below, and threatened to jump off, Ukrainian media reported.

SBU officers followed him on to the roof, detained him and led him out to a waiting van.

However, several hundred supporters blocked the road and surrounded the van, refusing to let it drive off.

Two hours after Mr Saakashvili entered the van, it was still at a standstill as the crowd chanted "Kiev, rise up!"

Ukrainian Security Service officers detain Mikheil Saakashvili at his house in Kiev. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Footage from the scene showed protesters picking up cobblestones and construction rubble to build barricades.

National Guard riot police were dispatched to help the SBU release the van but they soon found themselves surrounded by a crowd of protesters.

Mr Saakashvili is arguably Ukraine's most popular opposition politician and a challenge to President Petro Poroshenko, who appointed him as governor of Ukraine's Odessa region before the two fell out.

Mr Saakashvili served as Georgia's president for nearly a decade before he was termed out of the office and left the country in 2013.

He resigned as Odessa governor in 2016, complaining that his efforts to root out corruption suffered official obstruction.

Mr Poroshenko revoked Mr Saakashvili's citizenship in July while he was out of the country.

Mr Saakashvili forced his way across Ukraine's border with Poland last month.

His stand-off with Mr Poroshenko ignited long-simmering popular discontent with the slow pace of the president's much-promised reforms.

The Security Service said in a statement that Mr Saakashvili is facing a criminal investigation for "assisting members of criminal organisations or hiding their criminal activities".

Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko said in a televised briefing later in the day that Mr Saakashvili is suspected of colluding with Ukrainian businessmen with ties to Russian intelligence in order to topple Mr Poroshenko.

AP


 

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