Former Georgia leader, now a man without a country, slips into Ukraine

Peter Castro
September 12, 2017

The populist Mr Saakashvili - who ran Georgia for almost a decade after leading its 2003 Rose Revolution, but is on the wanted list of its current authorities - insisted he had "no ambition towards any particular office in Ukraine".

He lost his Georgian citizenship when he was granted a Ukrainian passport in 2015 because Georgia does not allow dual citizenship. However he resigned the post after only 18 months, complaining that official corruption in Ukraine was so entrenched he could not work effectively.

Saakashvili denies the allegations and says Georgia's extradition request was made on behalf of "oligarchs" who fear his presence in Ukraine.

The Kyiv Post confirms that Saakashvili is now in a hotel in Lviv, guarded by "about 70 fully uniformed soldiers of the Donbas battalion" who answer to Saakashvili allies.

An AFP reporter saw the one-time regional Ukraine governor and his supporters enter from Poland's Medyka border crossing, pushing aside Ukrainian border guards who had turned him back just hours earlier. After the incident had already gained significant worldwide media attention, Saakashvili and his allies broke through the guards, reports The Associated Press reports.

"I am not afraid".

"I have a clear plan: to end theft from the economy; to end the power of the oligarchy; to end misuse of power", Mr Saakashvili said. "There are children here, there are ordinary Ukrainian citizens who want to get home".

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Mr Poroshenko vowed to punish those responsible for Mr Saakashvili's breach of the border, while observers said they feared the ugly political spat would hit Ukraine's global image.

Saakashvili was expected to hold a rally in Lviv on Sunday night before deciding with his supporters on whether to head to Kyiv.

Saakashvili, who became governor of Odessa, Ukraine, under Poroshenko in part due to his performance keeping pro-Russians out of power in Georgia, has become a prominent leader for anti-Russian Ukrainians.

Prosecutor-General Yuri Lutsenko said late Sunday that charges would be pursued against organizers of Saakashvili's unauthorized entry.

According to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, 16 border guards and police officers sustained bodily injuries during the incident.

An RFE/RL correspondent at the border reports that Ukrainian police on September 10 detained about 40 Ukrainian men wearing camouflage military uniforms who allegedly were "hired" to disrupt events marking Saakashvili's attempted return. Polls show little support for his party in Ukraine, the Movement of New Forces.

Other reports by PlayStation Move reviews

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