What's behind Mikheil Saakashvili's Ukraine ordeal?

What's behind Mikheil Saakashvili's Ukraine ordeal?
From Al Jazeera - February 13, 2018

Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's former president who turned to opposition politics in Ukraine, has been making international headlines over the past months with a string of dramatic scenes of unrest.

Last September, he used a crowd of supporters to barge past guards to enter Ukraine from the Polish border, to protest against the Ukrainian government's decision to strip him of his Ukrainian citizenship.

In December, Saakashvili climbed on the roof of a building in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, as armed police stormed his apartment. After he was dragged down by the security forces and bundled into a police van, a group of supporters rushed to his aid, ripping off the doors of the vehicle to allow his escape.

The latest dramatic episode came on Monday, when a large group of men in military uniforms dragged him out of a restaurant and deported him to Poland. Saakashvili called the move "kidnapping".

What's behind the ordeal?

Saakashvili was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2015 by President Petro Poroshenko, who made him governor of Ukraine's Odessa region.

Poroshenko said Saakashvili would help Ukraine battle corruption, citing his success of all but eradicating it in Georgia during his presidency there from 2004 to 2013.

But a year later, Saakashvili resigned and called for Poroshenko's removal, accusing the Ukrainian president of protecting corrupt Ukrainians.

The president reacted by stripping his former ally of his citizenship in July 2017, turning him into a stateless person, since Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship to accept the Ukrainian one.

The development gave him more notoriety, boosting his voice against the Ukrainian leader.

Why Poland?

The Ukrainian government had three choices in dealing with Saakashvili: an arrest, deportation to Georgia, or exile in Poland.

Ukrainian prosecutors accuse Saakashvili of having assisted a criminal organisation - a charge that is widely seen as trumped up.

Security services said he received financing from a "criminal group" linked to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich during the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.

The Ukrainian government refrained from arresting Saakashvili to avoid turning the former Georgian politician into a cause celebre, and to avoidinternational condemnation for holding a political prisoner.

What next?


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