Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, was jailed for six years in 2021 on charges of abuse of power. Photo: IRAKLIY GEDENIDZE/Reuters
Vladimir Putin will strike Moldova and the Baltic countries if he is given Ukrainian land in exchange for peace, the imprisoned former Georgian president warned.
Mikheil Saakashvili, who led Georgia , when it was invaded by Russia in 2008, told The Telegraph that the Russian president would not stop his expansionist ambitions if peace in Ukraine was bought with territorial concessions.
“If Russia manages to freeze its control over part of Ukraine, the war will, of course, soon after this temporary freeze spread to other parts of Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltic countries,” he wrote in a letter smuggled out of the prison hospital where he is being held. takes place in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
“This is why such a deal will never be viable.”
Putin is widely expected to demand that Ukraine give up Crimea, as well as four occupied provinces. in 2022, he annexed Kherson, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Lugansk to Russia as the minimum price for peace.
Russia invaded Georgia 2008. Photo: VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP
Volodymyr Zelensky has insisted he will not give up any of the internationally recognized territory to end the war started by Russia, despite growing uncertainty in the US and European Union about how long they can continue to fund Ukraine's defense.< /p>
“Zelensky's peace plan is a solid basis for any negotiated settlement,” Mr Saakashvili said. “Without respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine there can be no real peace, only further escalation of the conflict.”
Mr Saakashvili has lost half his weight in prison since he was imprisoned in 2021 jail for six years on charges of abuse of power, which his supporters say is a political punishment imposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, widely seen as pro-Russian.
During two terms as the pro-Western president of the former Soviet republic from 2004 to 2013, he introduced sweeping reforms and accelerated Georgia's progress toward membership in NATO and the European Union.
In 2008, Putin invaded Georgia in support of Kremlin-backed forces. separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two provinces that have since been under Russian control but are still recognized internationally as rightfully Georgian.
The war ended after five days. with a French-brokered ceasefire that stopped Russian tanks 20 miles from Tbilisi and left 20 percent of Georgia's territory occupied.
Mr Saakashvili credits the West's failure to punish Putin for the invasion with emboldening him to seize Crimea in 2014 and to invade Ukraine in 2022, and convinced the Russian dictator that the West is weak, impatient and can always be overcome.
“In 2008, our partners limited their response to condemnation of Russia’s actions , but the world’s attention was soon diverted by the global economic crisis,” he said.
“This is a lesson that Putin has learned – if the world is in turmoil, the attention of democratic countries wanes and their response weakens.”
He added: “The very last words Putin said to me during our last meeting were : “Your Western friends promise you many good things but never deliver.” I don’t promise you anything good, but I always deliver.”
“Putin views all these conflicts as episodes of his main conflict with the United States, the “Anglo-Saxon” world and Western democracy in general, and he is convinced that he can outlast and outwit Westerners.
“Can Zelensky trust him? Absolutely not. Nobody can.”
Mr Saakashvili says Vladimir Putin cannot be trusted Photo: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS
This perceived weakness is also why Mr Saakashvili believes the West must support Ukraine with full force now to avoid an even more costly war with NATO in the future. which has been increasingly predicted by alliance military leaders in recent months.
“I also think that the new narrative in Europe that they have to prepare for Russian attacks in three or five years is very dangerous,” he said He. “This narrative assumes a Russian victory in Ukraine and the further strengthening of Russian forces, which will also include militants from conquered Ukraine.
“I don’t think the West will be able to withstand the attack of this reinforced Russian army. so the only chance to protect itself is to make Ukraine's victory possible now.”
After Saakashvili was removed from office in 2012, he became a citizen of Ukraine, advised then-President Petro Poroshenko and was appointed governor of the southern port city Odessa.
He is a strong ally of Zelensky, who regained his citizenship in 2019 after being stripped by Poroshenko two years earlier, and believes the West has been too slow to provide Ukraine with modern weapons, which he says would have made significant progress had it been deployed earlier during the war.
“The Ukrainians could have already done this if not for the persistent hesitation of the West at the initial stage,” Saakashvili said, answering the question whether Ukraine has a real chance to completely oust Russia from five occupied provinces.
“Ukraine is quite capable of regaining control over its entire territory, but the status quo on the battlefield can only change in Ukraine’s favor if double the financial and diplomatic efforts are made.”
The Ukrainians have demonstrated miracles of resilience and they should be rewarded rather than discouraged by constant hesitation and talk of “Ukraine fatigue.”
Mr Saakashvili says that the modern weapons sent to Ukraine would have provided significant progress had they been deployed earlier in the war. Photo: Andrey Marienko/AP
Mr Saakashvili was arrested in 2021 when he returned to Georgia to lead anti-government protests. He is being treated in a hospital in Tbilisi and eating only food brought to him by his mother after an alleged attempt at heavy metal poisoning by Russian agents later that year.
Georgian authorities insist he is receiving adequate medical care and that he lost weight thanks to a 50-day fast.
But Amnesty International and the human rights organization the Council of Europe agree with the opinion of the opposition United National Movement. (UNM) that he is a political prisoner.
Mr Saakashvili claims his imprisonment is a personal decision by Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of Georgian Dream, who returned to front-line politics as the party's honorary chairman in December. The UNM claims that Mr. Ivanishvili, the country's richest man, has personally masterminded Georgia's turn toward the Kremlin over the past 12 years.
“Because I am a symbol of successful systemic reforms in our region, he continues me in prison, despite numerous calls from the international community to release me and public opinion polls showing that the majority of Georgians support my release,” Saakashvili said.
But his prison sentence won't stop him from beating the drum for the West to step up support for Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other eastern European countries, accelerating their progress towards EU and NATO membership, sanctioning more Russian oligarchs and doubling down on defense support for Ukraine.
“It is very important not to distract the attention of the West, since the main battlefield is Ukraine, and the fate of the free world is being decided there,” he said.
“Only a position of strength produces results, and any weakness only gives courage to the predator. Putin will never stop until he is stopped.”