Saakashvili Says He Wants To Unite Opposition In Ukraine

Elias Hubbard
September 13, 2017

Former governor of Odessa and onetime Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was served Tuesday with a legal notice to appear before a Ukrainian court to explain why he broke through a cordon of police and border guards to enter the country from Poland.

Returning to Ukraine is a risk for Mr Saakashvili, who is stateless because he was forced to give up citizenship in his native Georgia when he received Ukrainian nationality.

Saakashvili said he would travel to all regions of Ukraine to unite "different political forces around a common theme that we must have a democracy and we should not let oligarchs hold sway".

"We didn't want this country when we stayed on Maidan", he told reporters.

Saakashvili says he does not covet the presidency himself and wants to promote a new, younger politician to the post.

Reuters also reported that reformist lawmaker Mustafa Nayyem, one of the leaders of the Maidan protests and a member of Poroshenko's faction in parliament, traveled with Saakashvili and has accused Kyiv authorities of trying to silence opponents.

Saakashvili said "several hundred thugs were mobilised by the Ukrainian government to stop several thousand" of his supporters waiting to greet him on the Ukrainian side.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry said on Facebook Tuesday that five people who crossed into Ukraine from Poland with Saakashvili were arrested on criminal charges.

He has brandished his Ukrainian passport on several occasions and also maintains that officials working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva have confirmed his status as "stateless in Ukraine", meaning he has the right to be there to appeal against Poroshenko's decision to withdraw his citizenship. The 49-year-old is now wanted on criminal charges in Georgia, which he says were trumped up for political reasons.

Saakashvili said in Lviv that he no longer had a Ukrainian passport, claiming it was "stolen by police" from a bus that had transported him into Ukraine. "That means I am legally in Ukraine".

The headstrong and divisive Mr Saakashvili poses a challenge to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who once was his patron but revoked his Ukrainian citizenship in July.

If found guilty, Saakashvili will face fine ranging from 3,400 to 8,500 hryvnia.

"This is a state security issue", the Ukrainian president said in a video address Monday.

Saakashvili claims to have United Nations recognition as being "stateless" and says he wants to challenge the revocation of his citizenship at a court in Ukraine.

The charismatic Saakashvili is credited with pushing through pro-Western and anti-graft reforms in Georgia which he led from 2004 to 2013.

"I think Poroshenko made a mistake inviting Saakashvili in the first place", said political scientist Oleksy Garan, a professor at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

Georgia, where Saakashvili faces accusations of abuse of power and misappropriation of property, has sent an extradition request for him to Ukraine.

Saakashvili resigned from the Odesa governor's post in November 2016, complaining he had been blocked from carrying out reforms.

Saakashvili's own popularity ratings in the polls are low, with under two percent of Ukrainians viewing him favorably.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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