Riot police have been deployed to the streets of the Ukrainian capital Kiev amid a stand-off with hundreds of protesters who had blocked a police van carrying an arrested politician.
Ukraine’s intelligence agency SBU detained the former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, who has emerged as an anti-corruption campaigner in his new country.
Mr Saakashvili climbed on to the roof of his home in Kiev, drawing a crowd of supporters below, and threatened to jump off, Ukrainian media reported. SBU officers followed him on to the roof, detained him and led him out to a waiting van.
However, several hundred supporters blocked the road and surrounded the van, refusing to let it drive off.
Two hours after Mr Saakashvili entered the van, it was still at a standstill as the crowd chanted “Kiev, rise up!”
Footage from the scene showed protesters picking up cobblestones and construction rubble to build barricades. National Guard riot police were dispatched to help the SBU release the van but they soon found themselves surrounded by a crowd of protesters.
Mr Saakashvili is arguably Ukraine’s most popular opposition politician and a challenge to President Petro Poroshenko, who appointed him as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region before the two fell out. Mr Saakashvili served as Georgia’s president for nearly a decade before he was termed out of the office and left the country in 2013.
He resigned as Odessa governor in 2016, complaining that his efforts to root out corruption suffered official obstruction.
Mr Poroshenko revoked Mr Saakashvili’s citizenship in July while he was out of the country.
Mr Saakashvili forced his way across Ukraine’s border with Poland last month.
His stand-off with Mr Poroshenko ignited long-simmering popular discontent with the slow pace of the president’s much-promised reforms. The Security Service said in a statement that Mr Saakashvili is facing a criminal investigation for “assisting members of criminal organisations or hiding their criminal activities”.
Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko said in a televised briefing later in the day that Mr Saakashvili is suspected of colluding with Ukrainian businessmen with ties to Russian intelligence in order to topple Mr Poroshenko.