Shocking new pictures of a Vladimir Putin ‘enemy’, who claims he is being “poisoned in prison by the Russian leader”, show him looking “barely recognisable”.
Images of a court video link appearance by the former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, reveal the former leader’s physical condition has deteriorated substantially since he was last seen publicly in March.
Mr Saakashvili has been imprisoned since 2021 on charges he claims are politically motivated. His poor health means he currently lives in a secure area of a Tbilisi hospital.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk last month, Mr Saakashvili claimed he was being poisoned on the orders of Russian president Mr Putin.
The deep animosity between the pair can be traced back to 2008 when war broke out between Georgia and its powerful neighbour over the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
READ MORE Vengeful Putin ‘poisoning’ ex-Georgian President Saakashvili in prison – claims[LATEST]
Mr Saakashvili’s actions during the conflict 15 years ago angered Putin so much he told ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy the Georgian president should be “hung by his balls”.
Local media outlet Front News Georgia reported that Mr Saaksashvili criticised the judge over his treatment in the hearing, which relates to a 2007 rally.
It also quoted lawyers for the state as saying a ruling by European Court of Human Rights rejecting the former president’s request to be transferred abroad for treatment,
Close friend and former defence minister of Georgia during the conflict with Russia, David Kezerashvili, expressed his shock at the physical condition of the nation’s former leader.
“These images will naturally cause shock around the world. Mikheil Saakashvili has suffered substantial weight loss and is barely recognisable from the figure who led Georgia’s Rose Revolution in 2003,” he told Express.co.uk.
“Most neutral observers recognise his imprisonment for what it is: a grotesque abuse of power, designed only to protect Russian interests in the region.
“The international community needs to rally fast if it is to free Saakashvili before it’s too late.”
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On Tuesday evening (July 3) Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for Mikheil Saakashvili to be released and returned to Ukraine, where he lived before his imprisonment, on Twitter.
“Right now, Russia is killing Ukrainian citizen Mykhailo Saakashvili at the hands of the Georgian authorities,” he wrote.
“We have repeatedly called on the official Tbilisi to stop this abuse and agree on Saakashvili’s return to Ukraine. Our partners, in coordination with Ukraine, have also offered various rescue options.”
Mr Saakashvili’s poisoning allegations are rejected by Georgian authorities who claim his ill health is due to a “refusal to eat enough food”. Mr Saakashvili has previously embarked on 50-day hunger strikes in protest of his imprisonment.
Detailing the extent of his physical deterioration to Sky News, he said: “I was initially 120 kilogrammes, now I am 64, if I become less than 60 doctors predict multiple organ failure. I am in bed all the time, my bones are disintegrating and it gives excruciating pain.”
Tests of the former Georgian president’s fingernails have revealed high levels of arsenic and heavy metals. In a statement detailing his client’s condition Mr Saakashvili’s lawyer said he looked “like a prisoner in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany”.
In his exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Mr Saakashvili revealed in handwritten answers to our questions he warned world leaders Vladimir Putin would attack Kyiv for decades.
“I warned everyone and they looked at me like I was crazy,” he added.
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