Ukraine president criticizes Saakashvili for crossing border

12 September, 2017, 00:16 | Author: Ora Austin
  • EPA-EFE  MYKOLA TYS

Mikheil Saakashvili, a popular former governor of Odessa region who is now challenging President Petro Poroshenko, has crossed into Ukraine, helped by hundreds of his supporters.

Mr Poroshenko vowed to punish those responsible for Mr Saakashvili's breach of the border, while observers said they feared the ugly political spat would hit Ukraine's worldwide image.

Saakashvili meant to return to Ukraine despite being stripped of Ukrainian citizenship by his one-time ally, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and being threatened with arrest and extradition if he sets foot on Ukrainian soil.

After having led Georgia for a decade, Saakashvili, who had been criticized for his authoritarian style and especially to the disastrous war with Russian Federation in 2008, had acquired Ukrainian citizenship in 2015, and was appointed governor of the Ukrainian region of Odessa (south). But while perhaps not a threat as a direct rival, Saakashvili could prove to be an effective weapon against Poroshenko for powerful opposition figures like Yulia Tymoshenko, who was with him at the border on Sunday.

"To avoid provocations, we all agreed to cross the border by train", said Mikheil Saakashvili.

"But instead, he committed a crime - because the state border must not be violated", Poroshenko said.

He claims to have UNHCR recognition as being "stateless" and wants to challenge his loss of citizenship inside Ukraine.

Mostly sunny, slightly warmer Sunday
Wednesday will be mostly cloudy with periods of rain throughout the day, but temperatures will be in the low 80s. The storm looks like it will also severely impact Georgia and SC early next week before turning inland.

Saakashvili denies the accusations branding them a political witch hunt.

Saakashvili had planned on taking an afternoon train from the southeastern Polish city of Przemyśl to Kyiv, but an onboard announcement said the train would not leave the station while carrying "a person who is not allowed entry to Ukraine".

But Saakashvili has been adamant about his return to rally political supporters, having announced his return to the country as far back as July. I, as president, will surely comply with any court ruling.

Reformist lawmaker Mustafa Nayyem, one of the faces of the Maidan protests and a member of Poroshenko's faction in parliament, traveled with Saakashvili on Sunday and accused the Kiev authorities of trying to silence opponents. "No matter how many times he says that I am not a danger [to] him, every action of his shows exactly the opposite - that he regards me as a great and immediate danger", Saakashvili also said.

Speaking at a news conference in the western city of Lviv on Monday, Mr Saakashvili insisted he aimed to restore his Ukrainian citizenship and get back into politics.

"We didn't want this country when we stayed on Maidan", he told reporters.

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