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Saakashvili Arrives In Netherlands After Expulsion From Ukraine

Mikheil Saakashvili stands in front of the Immigration and Naturalization offices in Rotterdam on February 14.
Mikheil Saakashvili stands in front of the Immigration and Naturalization offices in Rotterdam on February 14.

Mikheil Saakashvili has arrived in the Netherlands, his wife's home country, after being expelled from Ukraine into neighboring Poland.

Asked upon his arrival on February 14 how long he planned to stay in the Netherlands, Saakashvili said, "We will see. But for sure, it's due to the circumstances I'm here because of what happened in Ukraine."

"But, obviously, it's a country I come to very often anyway," he told Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

In a Facebook post, Saakashvili said he received an ID card shortly after arrival that allows him to live and work in the European Union.

"But I am decisively intent, as never before, on restoring my Ukrainian citizenship," he wrote.

Saakashvili, 50, was hired in 2015 by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to head Ukraine's Odesa region but fell afoul of his friend over corruption allegations and calls for reform and was stripped of his citizenship in July 2017.

After beginning an opposition campaign to Poroshenko, Saakashvili was detained at a Kyiv restaurant on February 12 and taken to the airport and flown to Poland, the country from which he returned to Ukraine in September 2017 eluding a border blockade.

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Ukrainian authorities have accused Saakashvili of abetting an alleged "criminal group" led by Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-friendly former president who fled the country in 2014 amid massive protests known as the Euromaidan.

The authorities also alleged that the street protests he led were part of a Russian plot against the government in Kyiv.

Saakashvili has denied all the charges, calling them "absurd" and politically motivated.

Saakashvili was also the president of Georgia in 2004-2013 and is wanted in the Caucasus country after being convicted of abuse of power in connection with a 2006 murder case. He has been sentenced in absentia to three years in prison.

He also denies the charges of wrongdoing in Georgia.

Saakashvili's wife, Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs-Saakashvili, was born in the Netherlands and has Dutch citizenship.

Saakashvili said he planned to "go on a tour of Europe" to raise support for his campaign to topple Poroshenko and his government in Kyiv.

"We will defeat him for sure, we will prevail over him thorough the peaceful resistance of the Ukrainian people," Saakashvili on February 13 told Current Time Television, a project of RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

With reporting by Current Time TV, AP, AFP, and Reuters

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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