Ex-Georgian president forces way into Ukraine

Sep 12, 2017, 00:34
Ex-Georgian president forces way into Ukraine

Saakashvili, who was president of Georgia until 2013, acquired Ukrainian citizenship in 2015 but was stripped of that in July after a bitter falling out with his former ally, President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine.

SHEHYNI, Ukraine (Reuters) - Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili and a crowd of supporters barged past guards to enter Ukraine from the Polish border on Sunday after a prolonged standoff between Saakashvili and the Ukrainian authorities.

Around 1,500 supporters marched with the exiled ex-Georgian leader on the Ukrainian side of the border before he hopped into a auto bound for the western city of Lviv, where around 500 supporters greeted him on his arrival. Both his passports Ukrainian ad Georgian, are not valid, but Georgia's ex-president and one-time regional governor in Ukraine, "forces entry" to Ukrainian side.

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"Saakashvili's return to Ukrainian politics was triumphant albeit scandalous", Mr Vadym Karasyov, director of the Kiev-based Institute of Global Strategies, said.

"Instead, a crime was committed", he said of Sunday's events at the border. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said 17 police and border guards were injured in the confrontation at the border, according to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. But while perhaps not a threat as a direct rival, Saakashvili could prove to be an effective weapon against Poroshenko for powerful opposition figures like Yulia Tymoshenko, who was with him at the border on Sunday.

Poroshenko's office said Saakashvili had failed to deliver change as governor, adding his Ukrainian citizenship was withdrawn because he allegedly put false information on his registration form. "I demand to be let into my Ukraine", he said.

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Saakashvili divides opinion in Ukraine, which is at war with Russia-backed rebels in its east. "Misha!" (Saakashvili's nickname) and waving yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flags, the now stateless politician made his way to the Shehyny checkpoint, which was closed by Kiev's authorities earlier Sunday, according to media reports.

Saakashvili's attorneys argue that it is illegal for a nation to strip a citizen of their citizenship rights when this leaves the person stateless.

Saakashvili denies the allegations and says Georgia's extradition request was made on behalf of "oligarchs" who fear his presence in Ukraine. He then traveled by bus to the Medyka-Shehyni border crossing, where he was allowed to pass through a Polish checkpoint on the border with Ukraine, but then temporarily blocked from reaching the Ukrainian checkpoint by a line of border guards standing arm-in-arm.

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