Former President Mikheil Saakashvili, wanted on several charges, said he has arrived in Georgia.
In an unexpected Facebook post early on October 1, Saakashvili said “Good morning, Georgia. From Georgia already after eight years.”
In another poor quality unverified video post on his Facebook page, Saakashvili supposedly addresses public from the port of Batumi at night, coastal city near Turkish border. In the video, Saakashvili, who earlier posted October 2 Kyiv-Tbilisi flight, said he said will arrive in Tbilisi soon.
Georgian media cited the Interior Ministry as saying that Saakashvili did not cross the border.
Saakashvili called on his supporters to gather on Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare, and nearby Freedom Square on October 3, the day after local elections.
“When there will be 100,000 of us, I am sure there will be no power to defeat us,” said Saakashvili. “And I will of course join you.”
He added that people from all over Georgia should arrive in Tbilisi in lines of cars to “protect” the results of the elections. “I will join one of these lines,” the former President said.
Saakashvili has also urged the public to vote for his own United National Movement party, or smaller opposition groups except ex-Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia and “small parties that receive money from [GD founder Bidzina] Ivanishvili.”
Georgian Dream reacts
Chair of the governing party, Irakli Kobakhidze called Saakashvili a “clown” and denied reports that the former President has arrived in the country, arguing the video footage “was not recorded in Georgia.”
MP Kobakhidze asserted that Saakashvili is trying to take credit for the results the UNM will get in the October 2 local polls, hinting at a rift inside the largest opposition party.
Georgian Dream’s Mamuka Mdinaradze said the ruling party has “exact information” that the former President has not left Ukraine, suggesting the videos published by Saakashvili could be a deepfake. “He is hiding from everyone to create a perception that he is in Georgia,” MP Mdinaradze said, adding that specialists are looking into the footage.
But if Saakashvili “steps a foot in the country” he will face immediate detention, warned the GD lawmaker.
This article was updated.