Vengeful Putin poisoning ex-Georgian President Saakashvili in prison – claims

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The former president of Georgia, Misha Saakashvili, has claimed he is being poisoned by Vladimir Putin while in prison.

Imprisoned since 2021 on charges he contests, Mr Saakashvili is detained in a Tbilisi hospital having been transferred there because of ill health.

Images of Georgia’s ex-leader during a video link court appearance earlier this year showed a gaunt grey man with glazed eyes and hollowed cheeks.

It was a far cry from the charismatic politician with jet black hair and a winning smile who former US President George Bush said he “admired”.

In an exclusive interview with Mr Saakashvili claimed his nine-stone weight loss and diagnosis of imminent irreversible organ damage is no accident. He believes it has been caused by “poison”.

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Having risen to power in Georgia as the leader of the Rose Revolution nationalist movement, which sought to remove Russian influence from the country, in 2004 Mr Saakashvili was praised by Western leaders as a flagbearer of democracy on Putin’s doorstep.

However, his decision to embark on a conflict with his powerful neighbour four years later in the disputed South Ossetia region was seen as reckless by many of his allies.

The war enraged Putin who told ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy he thought Mr Saakashvili should be “hung by his balls”.

In handwritten answers to our questions, Saakashvili told he believes the leader of Russia is exacting his revenge by having him poisoned.

“My poisoning was greetings from Putin,” he told us, “I am being held in a clinic turned into a prison totally isolated from the political process.

“No MP either Georgian or foreign, including US senators, MEPs, or Ukrainian dignitaries are allowed to visit me.”

Saakashvili is not the only rival to Putin who alleges they are being slowly killed in prison.

Incarcerated since 2021, the Russian opposition leader, Aleksei Navalny, has reported similar health conditions as Saakashvili.

Earlier this year Mr Navalny’s lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, said his client was suffering severe stomach pains and that he had lost a stone in weight.

Mr Kobzev accused prison doctors of giving the opposition leader “huge doses” of inappropriate antibiotics and said the Kremlin was seeking “destroy Navalny’s health”.

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Watching the war in Ukraine and the subsequent backlash against his long-time foe from prison, Mr Saakashvili can’t help but feel his repeated warnings about Russian aggression over the past 15 years ago should have been heeded by the West.

His frustration grew as Britain and other nations gamely welcomed Russian oligarchs to their shores whilst Putin engaged in conflicts over disputed border territories.

“That created an impression that you can rampage on tanks through a European country and simultaneously go shopping at Harrods. It was hardly discouraging them,” he said.

Although there have been no military developments in Georgia since Saakashvili left power a decade ago, concerns have arisen about Russian influence in the Georgian government.

A recent example is a proposed ‘foreign agents law’ going through parliament which would require individuals, civil society organizations, and media outlets who receive at least 20 per cent of their funds from abroad to register with the Ministry of Justice as “agents of foreign influence”.

The legislation that mimics a law in Russia has been heavily criticised by human rights groups who have warned about its onerous reporting requirements, inspections, and administrative and criminal liability.

Saakashvili is also concerned about its impact. “That law would officially turn Georgia into Russia. But I believe, unlike Russians, Georgian people would never accept it,” he said.

Stay tuned to for more from our exclusive interview with Saakashvili.

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