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Saakashvili Slams Georgian Decision To Revoke His Citizenship

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Mikheil Saakashvili has been working as the governor of Ukraine's Odesa region since May.

Mikheil Saakashvili has been working as the governor of Ukraine's Odesa region since May.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian ex-president who now governs the Odesa region in Ukraine, says Tbilisi's decision to strip him of his Georgian citizenship is politically motivated.

Saakashvili, who started the Odesa job in May, told RFE/RL hours after the move was announced that Georgia's current authorities "are afraid" of him.

And he vowed to return to Georgia, passport or not.

"No one can strip me of my unlimited love for Georgia; we will definitely come back [to Georgia] and we will win," he added.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili revoked Saakashvili's citizenship on December 4, one day after Justice Minister Tea Tsulukani recommended the action.

Tbilisi cites a ban on dual citizenship and the Ukrainian citizenship that Saakashvili took on earlier this year in order to take up the Odesa job for his friend, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

"That is clearly a political decision, and there are several reasons to think that way," Saakashvili said.

"First, there is a two-year period given by the Ukrainian laws for revoking a previous country’s citizenship. And the Georgian government was well aware of it. There are many of our [Georgian] citizens working at different official posts here, and they also obtained Ukrainian citizenship. However, there is no [such] decision on them."

He defended his work as governor in Ukraine.

"Today, me and my friends are serving the Georgian cause; we are serving Georgia's future [by working in Ukraine]," Saakashvili said. "Our common future. That's why they can take away my passport but nobody can deprive me of my Georgianness."

He added that "salvation and progress in Ukraine will result in the salvation and progress of Georgia."

Saakashvili and his United National Movement party in Georgia suggested the move was aimed at preventing his possible participation in Georgia's parliamentary elections, scheduled for next year.

"Although I have never said I would take part in the polls," Saakashvili added.

His United National Movement also announced that despite Saakashvili's Georgian citizenship being revoked, he would remain the party's de facto leader; but a new, formal leader will be elected soon to ensure that the party's activities don't run afoul of the law.

Saakashvili, who introduced reforms during nearly a decade in power in Georgia following the 2003 Rose Revolution, left that ex-Soviet republic after his presidency ended in November 2013.

The government that came to power after beating his party in 2012 parliamentary elections has accused him of fraud, organization of an assault, and abuse of office -- charges he denies -- and has sought to prosecute a number of his former allies.

Tbilisi asked Kyiv to extradite Saakashvili earlier this year, but Ukrainian officials call the accusations against him politically motivated.

With reporting by, TASS, and Interfax