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Saakashvili Lobbies In Washington For Arms To Be Sent To Ukraine

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili in Kyiv last year.
Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili in Kyiv last year.

WASHINGTON -- Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says he is meeting with U.S. lawmakers and officials in Washington to discuss "increasing legislative pressure" to provide weapons to Ukraine.

Saakashvili wrote in a February 25 post on his Facebook page that "never have so many [U.S.] lawmakers agreed to meet with me, even when I was president: 34 meetings in three days."

Many prominent members of the U.S. Congress have advocated providing arms to the Ukrainian government in its standoff with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine that Washington accuses Moscow of backing.

The Facebook post featured a picture of U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (Democrat-Maryland), a vocal Kremlin critic, standing next to Saakashvili, who wrote that his "meetings have begun."

Saakashvili left Georgia after his presidency ended in November 2013 and is currently serving as an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Georgia has sought to have Ukraine extradite Saakashvili to face abuse of authority and other charges.

He and members of his former government say the charges against them are politically motivated.

In a February 24 op-ed published by The Washington Post, Saakashvili said opponents of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine must raise "the military cost" for Russian President Vladimir Putin "by supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, specifically antitank weapons that can halt the further advance of the Russian tanks and armored vehicles."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on February 21 that U.S. President Barack Obama would examine the possibility of arming Ukrainian forces to fight the rebels.

The pro-Western Saakashvili served as Georgia's president during the country's brief war with Russia in 2008, after which Moscow recognized Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states.

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