Published: Tue, September 12, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Stateless Mikheil Saakashvili breaks through into Ukraine

Stateless Mikheil Saakashvili breaks through into Ukraine

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili and hundreds of his supporters forced their way into Ukraine on Sunday in a bid by the firebrand politician to reclaim his citizenship stripped by President Petro Poroshenko after they fell out.

Supporters of Mr Saakashvili swept him through a crossing on Ukraine's frontier with Poland on Sunday night, in chaotic scenes that officials said left at least 16 police and border guards injured.

Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship when Poroshenko, a former ally, granted him Ukrainian citizenship.

Saakashvili, 49, who served as Georgian president from 2008 to 2013, was granted Ukrainian citizenship in May 2015 and was appointed as the governor of Ukraine's southern Odessa region. Even for those who publicly criticised Poroshenko for revoking Saakashvili's citizenship, the border episode was too much.

Saakashvili and a crowd of supporters are proceeding into Ukraine on foot after breaking through a line of guards on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

"Instead, a crime was committed", he said of Sunday's events at the border. He had been in Ukraine since 2012, after the rise of pro-Russian politicians in Georgia who charged him with abuse of power due to his imprisonment of Georgian opposition figures on corruption charges.

Saakashvili's relationship with Poroshenko dates back almost three decades to when they were students at the same university in Kiev and their shared opposition to the Kremlin later brought them together as politicians.

"I want to say that this is the beginning of my fight", he said, adding that he had a plan to turn Ukraine's economy and politics around and was determined to tour the country.

While waiting for the train together supporters and journalists, the ex-President talked with Georgian reporters about his desire to help Ukraine as well as to return to Georgia.

But he praised the Ukrainian border guards and National Guard members for not using violence.

Ukraine's migration service said the president takes decisions on who is stripped of Ukrainian citizenship based on the conclusions of the citizenship commission.

Mikheil Saakashvili said on Monday he was not seeking the presidency for himself, but wanted to see Poroshenko ousted at the next election in 2019. I, as president, will surely comply with any court ruling.

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

Last week Georgia's Prosecutor General's Office has sent the third request to the Ukrainian Justice Ministry and the Prosecutor's Office, asking them to detain and extradite ex-president to Georgia, when he entered Ukraine.

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