Six Ukrainians and one Georgian were arrested in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on December 2 following a special operation conducted by the Georgian Interior Ministry, the Head of Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Consular Support Vasyl Kyrylych confirmed to Hromadske. The seven men were detained for illegal possession and procurement of arms, ammunition and explosives.
According to the Tbilisi police, the men have been appointed lawyers and have not experienced any rights violations.
The advisor to the Ukrainian President and Defense Ministry Yuriy Biryukov earlier alleged that Ukrainian MP from the Samopomich party Semen Semenchenko was among the detainees but had managed to flee.
“I have… different kinds of contacts, they have confirmed the information that Semchenko is in Tbilisi, that Semchenko has embroiled us in a diplomatic scandal, that Semchenko abandoned ‘his’ people at the last moment and left,” Biryukov wrote on Facebook on December 2.
This was corroborated by journalist Andriy Dzindzia, who added that the Samopomich MP was able to evade detention thanks to his diplomatic passport.
“I have just received confirmation that the MP Semen Semchenko was among the Ukrainians detained in Georgia. Unfortunately, he managed to evade detention because he had his diplomatic passport with him. Sources in Georgia say that Semenchenko fled, leaving his associates behind,” he wrote.
However, Semenchenko denied both of these facts on Facebook calling them “fake.” Later on December 3, he also posted a video naming the seven men and stating that he arrived in Tbilisi on November 28 with his wife as an election observer and stayed in a hotel.
Semenchenko – a former commander from the Donbas volunteer battalion, which is now under the control of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry – also states that some of the men arrested for arms possession are “volunteers from the Donbas battalion, some of them were Ukrainian citizens, some of them were Georgian citizens,” adding that they had travelled to Georgia to meet with their “fellowmen.”
The Georgian man detained along with the Ukrainians has been identified as Luka Chkhetia, who had also fought in the war in eastern Ukraine with the Donbas Battalion.
The Georgian man detained along with the Ukrainians has been identified as Luka Chkhetia, who had also fought in the war in eastern Ukraine with the Donbas Battalion. Photo credit: Imedi
The arrests coincided with mass protests organized by the Georgian opposition party United National Movement, which is led by former Georgian President and Governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region Mikheil Saakashvili. The protesters were contesting the results of the second round of the country’s presidential elections which took place on November 28 and saw in Georgia’s first female president Salome Zourabichvili. The protesters were demanding early parliamentary elections.
The Georgian Interior Ministry believe that Chkhetia intended on participating in the protests.