President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia on Monday of using Georgia’s government to kill the former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who sought to distance his country from Moscow’s influence and later became a Ukrainian citizen.
Mr. Saakashvili is serving a six-year sentence in Georgia on charges related to abuse of power that he says are politically motivated. He appeared frail and skeletal during a remote court appearance that was aired on Georgian television on Monday, raising his shirt to show his emaciated torso. According to Georgian news reports, he demanded the “opportunity to openly take part in political processes” and called for the Georgian people to “stand up” in support of him.
The appearance renewed serious concerns raised by his supporters, human rights groups and European leaders about his health and treatment in prison.
“Today, the world once again saw how the Kremlin — unfortunately, at the hands of the current Georgian government — is killing Ukrainian citizen Mykhailo Saakashvili,” Mr. Zelensky said in his nightly address on Monday, using a variant of Mr. Saakashvili’s name.
Mr. Zelensky also reiterated a demand that Georgia release Mr. Saakashvili to Ukraine for medical treatment, and called for Georgia’s ambassador to Ukraine to depart for Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, within 48 hours to consult with Georgian authorities on the matter. Like their respective nations, Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Saakashvili have a shared history of fighting Russian aggression. Mr. Saakashvili was the president of Georgia when Russia invaded in 2008, and his efforts to secure NATO and European Union membership for the country antagonized Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.
Georgia’s current government, however, has leaned pro-Russian and anti-West. Mass protests erupted in the country earlier this year over what many Georgians saw as antidemocratic moves. Some demonstrations have overlapped with demands for Mr. Saakashvili’s freedom.
Mr. Zelensky urged Ukraine’s allies “not to ignore” Georgia’s treatment of its imprisoned former president.
“Save this man,” he said. “No government in Europe has the right to execute people.”