Ex-governor Mikheil Saakashvili 'forces entry' to Ukraine

Saakashvili's Ukraine gambit a typically headstrong move

Mikheil Saakashvili, the ex-president of Georgia and former governor of Ukraine's Odesa region, has forced his way into Ukraine across the Polish border, helped by hundreds of his supporters.

Thousands of Saakashvili's supporters gathered on the Ukraine-Poland border on Sunday while prominent lawmakers, including former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, travelled with him from Poland.

Saakashvili has been stateless since his former mentor, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, stripped him of Ukrainian citizenship two months ago.

After leaving Georgia, where he led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that toppled then president Eduard Shevardnadze, Saakashvili wound up in Ukraine, where President Poroshenko appointed him governor of the Odessa Oblast (region) in May 2015.

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

In his opinion, it does not matter who violates the rules for crossing the state border, be it militants in the east or politicians in the west.

But Saakashvili was swept over the border on Sunday by a crowd of his supporters, angry that the crossing was closed.




But in accepting Ukrainian citizenship, he surrendered his Georgian citizenship.

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. Saakashvili has denied the charges, and says they are politically motivated. 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. "There should be direct legal accountability", Poroshenko said, according to the Kyiv Post. I do believe that many in the presidential administration had simply hoped that Saakashvili wouldn't strike back.

Ukrainian law enforcement agencies said Sahakashvili and his supporters face a possible 5 year prison term.

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

Saakashvili himself referred to Georgia and his struggles there as well by stating that this march was a good sign for both Ukraine and Georgia: "Even though I am concentrated on Ukraine right now, it doesn't mean that I have forgotten about Georgia for even second".

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

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