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Saakashvili Lashes Out At Poroshenko And Vows To Return To Ukraine

  • RFE/RL

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) appointed former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili as Odesa's regional governor in May 2015.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president and Odesa regional governor who was recently stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship, says he intends to return to Ukraine.

In a video press conference organized by his Movement of New Forces opposition party in its headquarters in Kyiv on August 1, Saakashvili, who is currently in the United States, said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's decision to annul his citizenship earlier in July was "illegal" and "weakened democracy in Ukraine."

Saakashvili urged Ukrainian authorities and Poroshenko to allow him to come back to legally prove in court that his citizenship had been illegally taken away from him.

"That move had a single goal, which is to remove a key player from the political scene in Ukraine," said Saakashvili, adding that the action had "weakened Ukraine in its fight against its current enemy -- Putin's Russia."

Saakashvili also was sharply critical of Poroshenko, a former friend of his who granted Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship and installed him as governor of Odesa.

"Poroshenko's move made it clear that the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces is a coward," he said. "A coward, who while I was not home changed the lock on my home door and threw all my belongings out of the window."

Saakashvili, who went to university in Ukraine and served his Soviet military duty in the country, added that he remains a Ukrainian who will do everything he can to make sure that corruption and lawlessness are eradicated in "our Ukraine."

"I do not plan to use the protection of the United States or any other country. I will come back," Saakashvili said, adding that his return would not be incognito.

Saakashvili also stated that his party's plan to stage mass protests in autumn remain unchanged.

Saakashvili, 49, is an adamantly pro-Western reformist who was swept to power in Georgia by the peaceful Rose Revolution protests of 2003 and served two terms as president in 2004-2013.

His popularity declined in his later years in office, in part because of a five-day war with Russia during which Moscow's forces drove deep into the South Caucasus country, and his long-ruling party was voted out of power in a 2012 parliamentary election.

Saakashvili was stripped of his Georgian citizenship in 2015, after becoming governor of the Odesa region -- a post that required him to take Ukrainian citizenship.

Georgia is seeking his extradition to face charges -- which he says are politically motivated -- connected to the violent dispersal of protests and a raid on a private television station.

He resigned as Odesa 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.

Without citizenship, Saakashvili cannot seek political office in Ukraine, where his party is calling for early parliamentary elections. A presidential vote is to be held in March 2019.

Based on the YouTube live stream of Saakashvili's press conference
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