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Saakashvili Says He Plans To Return To Ukraine Next Month

Former President of Georgia and ex-Odesa Governor Mikheil Saakashvili (file photo)

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president and ex-governor of Ukraine's Odesa region who was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in July, says he plans to return to Kyiv next month.

"I am returning to Ukraine. I will arrive on September 10 travelling from Poland through the Krakovets checkpoint [in the Lviv region]," he said in a live broadcast on Facebook on August 16.

President Petro Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship on July 26, a move the former Georgian president condemned as an "illegal way to move me from the political scene in Ukraine."

Ukrainian authorities have said that if he tries to enter the country they will bar him and confiscate his passport.

The 49-year-old Saakashvili, who served two terms as president from 2004 to 2013, is an adamantly pro-Western reformist who came to power in Georgia as a result of the peaceful Rose Revolution protests of 2003.

But his popularity declined in his later years in office, in part because of the 2008 five-day war with Russia during which Moscow's forces drove deep into the South Caucasus country.

Saakashvili was stripped of his Georgian citizenship in 2015 after he took Ukrainian citizenship in order to become governor of the Odesa region.

Georgia is seeking Saakashvili's extradition to face charges related to the violent dispersal of protesters and a raid on a private television station.

He says those charges are politically motivated.

Saakashvili resigned as Odesa's governor in November 2016 -- complaining of official obstruction of anticorruption efforts, accusing Poroshenko of dishonesty, and charging that the central government was sabotaging crucial reforms.

Now, without Ukrainian citizenship, Saakashvili cannot seek political office in Ukraine, where his party is calling for early parliamentary elections. However, he said in the Facebook broadcast that he has been travelling on his Ukrainian passport.

Ukraine is scheduled to conduct its next presidential election in March 2019.

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