Saakashvili left stateless as ex-ally revokes his Ukrainian passport
Former Georgian leader now at odds with Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko
Mikheil Saakashvili appears to be stateless after his Ukrainian citizenship was revoked by the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters
Mikheil Saakashvili has vowed to fight for his Ukrainian citizenship after it was revoked by the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko, in what the ex-Georgian leader called a sign that he fears political competition and real democratic reforms.
The leader of Georgia’s 2003 pro-western Rose Revolution and its president for nearly a decade, Mr Saakashvili went into opposition against Ukraine’s rulers after a turbulent spell as governor of the country’s corruption-plagued Odessa region.
He now appears to be a stateless person after earlier being stripped of his citizenship of Georgia, where he is wanted for questioning on abuse of power charges brought by his bitter rivals, in a case he calls politically motivated.
Ukrainian media quoted Mr Poroshenko’s office as saying he signed a decree revoking Mr Saakashvili’s Ukrainian passport after the country’s migration service said he had provided false information on his 2015 application form.
Mr Saakashvili, who is now in the United States, rejected this claim and said Mr Poroshenko had moved against him after talks in Georgia last week with its current leaders, who want the former president to be sent home for trial.
“Now there is an attempt under way to force me to become a refugee. This will not happen. I will not remain anywhere else and will not change status. I will fight for my legal right to return to Ukraine. ” Mr Saakashvili said in a video statement posted on Facebook.
“As soon as those in power realised that the opposition is unifying in order to come out into the streets this fall and put an end to their oligarchic pact, their fear overcame their reason. President Poroshenko has spat upon the constitution, of which he is supposed to be the guarantor.”
Mr Saakashvili (49) came to Ukraine after its own 2013-2014 pro-western revolution and pledged to help institute the kind of anti-corruption reforms that were a huge success during his early years as Georgian leader.
He became Odessa governor and several former colleagues from Georgia took other official posts in Ukraine – but almost all have now left, citing the slow pace of change and obstruction from Mr Poroshenko and other leaders.
Mr Saakashvili’s passionate rhetoric could still draw a crowd and hold a television audience in Ukraine, but polls show that he and his fledgling Movement of New Forces party would probably not pose a major challenge in presidential and national elections due in 2019.
Despite questions over his effectiveness as Odessa governor, few thought Mr Saakashvili should be a priority target for the authorities in a country that is plagued with corruption and still dominated by billionaire “oligarchs” such as Mr Poroshenko.
Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of Mr Poroshenko’s parliamentary bloc, said the attack on Mr Saakashvili was part of the president’s “preparation for a second term by tightening the screws on civil society and the opposition”.
Fellow reformist deputy Mustafa Nayem called Mr Poroshenko’s decision “the most stupid thing imaginable, a sign of weakness”.
“You might not agree with or like Mikheil, but overall he is on our side.”