The infamous Putin foe and former president of Georgia claims he was poisoned while incarcerated and doesn’t have much time left to live.
Mikheil Saakashvili, the pro-Western leader of Georgia at the time of Russia’s invasion in 2008, said that he has lost approximately half of his body weight recently.
He recently moved from a guarded clinic to prison, where he has been detained since 2018 on charges of corruption and abuse of power.
According to letters seen by Sky News, Mr Saakashvili wrote: ‘I was initially 120 kilograms, now I am 64, if I become less than 60 doctors predict multiple organ failure.’
He added: ‘I am in bed all the time, my bones are disintegrating and it gives [me] excruciating pain.’
Georgian Dream, the ruling party in Georgia, has consistently denied allegations that Mr Saakashvili was poisoned.
The government insists Mr Saakashvili’s weight loss is merely down to him not eating sufficiently, claiming he’s receiving adequate care in custody.
However, an independent expert gave evidence at a recent hearing indicating the former president does indeed show signs of exposure to heavy metals while in prison.
Mr Saakashvili’s renewed claims of an ongoing attempt on his life come after mass protests in the capital of Tbilisi saw the government throw out a proposed law, which threatened to curtail civil society and press freedoms.
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Georgia’s relationship with the West has steadily deteriorated. Not least given the longstanding ties between the ruling party’s oligarch founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and powerful Russian business interests.
Those ties have seen repeated calls for Ivanishvili to face sanctions, and have been held up as an obstacle to Georgia’s ongoing aspirations for European Union membership – something supported by roughly 85% of the country’s population.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, has praised the Georgian government for not becoming ‘another irritant’ to the Kremlin by remaining largely neutral on the war in Ukraine.
Though a widely unpopular figure in Georgia due to rampant corruption and human rights abuses during his tenure as president, Mr Saakashvili has increasingly become a flashpoint for mounting tensions.
Last week, French president Emmanuel Macron called for Mr Saakashvili’s release and warned the accelerating deterioration of his health is being viewed as a ‘litmus test’ for Georgia’s goal of joining the bloc.
Mr Macron’s comments follow Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accusing the Georgian government of ‘slowly killing’ Mr Saakashvili, who has also served as a politician in Ukraine.
In his correspondence with Sky News, Mr Saakashvili issued a message to those who demonstrated outside the Georgian parliament, writing: ‘Stay very vigilant, be ready to mobilise at short notice, because of the vengeful mood of the oligarch’s regime.’