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Saakashvili Rallies Supporters In Western Ukraine, Vows To Help Solve Country's 'Political Crisis'

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks to the media in the western city of Lviv on September 12.
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks to the media in the western city of Lviv on September 12.

Mikheil Saakashvili has told a rally in western Ukraine that he had returned to the country to help solve the country’s “political crisis” and that he intends to travel to Kyiv next week.

Speaking in both Ukrainian and Russian, the ex-governor of Ukraine's Odesa region and former president of Georgia told a crowd of supporters in the city of Chernivtsi on September 13 that he returned to the country this week “not simply” to challenge the revocation of his Ukrainian citizenship.

"I returned to Ukraine, together with you, to resolve the main issue: how to get out of the political crisis that currently exists in the country," he added.

Saakashvili -- formerly Georgian, then Ukrainian -- has been a stateless person since President Petro Poroshenko stripped his Ukrainian citizenship in July.

He said in Chernivtsi that he would "travel to several other cities" to rally support before moving on to Kyiv on September 19, saying the capital "urgently needs to be saved."

A video of the speech was posted on the Facebook page of Ukrainian TSN television.

Saakashvili defied the Ukrainian authorities and crossed into the country from Poland on September 10, helped by hundreds of his supporters.

On September 12 in the city of Lviv, authorities formally served notice to Saakashvili for what officials said was his illegal entry into the country, claiming several border officers were injured in the altercation at the border with his supporters.

Local media said he was ordered to appear at the Mostyskiy district court in the Lviv region on September 18 for a hearing over the incident.

On September 12, Saakashvili posted a video of Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, in which he says Saakashvili should be allowed to have his case heard in Ukraine’s court system.

“Ukraine is a country with a rule of law,” he said in response to a question about Saakashvili’s status.

“Someone like Saakashvili has a right to pursue his own case within the Ukrainian courts,” Volker also said. “I hope people de-escalate the political drama and focus on it as a legal matter.”

The Georgia government is seeking Saakashvili’s arrest and extradition on allegations that he misappropriated property and abused his powers when he was president of his native country from 2004 to 2013.

He denies the allegations and says Georgia’s extradition request was made on behalf of "oligarchs" who fear his presence in Ukraine.

After leaving Georgia for self-imposed exile in the United States in 2013, Saakashvili went to Ukraine in 2015 to work for the country's pro-Western authorities as governor of the Odesa region.

He lost his Georgian citizenship when he was granted a Ukrainian passport in 2015 because Georgia does not allow dual citizenship.

Saakashvili quit the post of Odesa's regional governor in November 2016 after falling out with Poroshenko.

With reporting by dpa, Interfax, and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
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