Ukrainian Police Come To Hromadske Office, Demand Audiovisual Materials on Saakashvili
10 October, 2017

Investigators from Ukraine’s National Police have demanded Hromadske grant them access to unedited photo and video materials connected to former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s return to Ukraine.

The investigators, who represent the police’s Lviv regional office, unexpectedly arrived at Hromadske’s central Kyiv office on the morning of October 10.

Saakashvili, who served for over a year as governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region, broke through the country’s western border on September 10. The authorities allege that the politician crossed into Ukraine illegally.

The police are investigating David Sakvarelidze, Ukraine’s former Deputy Prosecutor General and a member of Saakashvili’s Movement of New Forces political party, as an accomplice to the politician’s border crossing. Investigators presented Hromadske with a court order stating that they had “applied to the court for permission to temporarily access original photo and video materials made by Hromadske employees” of the events that led to Saakashvili crossing from Poland into Ukraine.

The investigators requested the right to “familiarize themselves with [the materials] and extract them.” However, on October 3, Lviv Galician District Court judge Natalia Zubachik only partially approved the application, granting the investigators the right to “view and copy,” but not extract the materials.

In accordance with the law, Hromadske provided investigators with copies of the requested photo and video materials.

Later, Artem Shevchenko, director of the Interior Ministry's communications department, clarified that the police took the audiovisual materials because judges will often not accept videos as evidence unless they were received during the course of the investigation. This means the investigators could not simply use Hromadske's reports on Saakashvili's return, while are freely available online.

In July 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship in a move widely regarded as political payback for Saakashvili’s sharp criticism of the president.

Then, on September 10, Saakashvili broke through the Ukrainian border from Poland. He was assisted by a large crowd of supporters who pushed through a cordon of law enforcement officers and border guards and pulled the Georgian-born politician onto Ukrainian territory.

According to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, 11 police officers and five border guards were injured as a result. It later emerged that the police had also detained five people.

/Text by Olena Rebryk

/Translated by Maria Romanenko