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Zelensky: 'No talks for now on Saakashvili joining my team'

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, June 6
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who reinstated the Ukrainian citizenship of ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, says that he has no political plans with Saakashvili for now.

Zelensky says that he has not met with Saakashvili and the decision to restore his Ukrainian citizenship was a "purely humane step, as the citizenship was annulled illegally."

"He [Saakashvili] has written to me, thanked for the decision. I do not know why as it was a fair decision," Zelensky told the Currenttime TV.

Speaking with the Imedi TV, Zelensky confirmed his meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze in Brussels on Tuesday.

He said that he had a short meeting with Bakhtadze and they exchanged their phone numbers.

Members of the United National Movement opposition, the party founded by Saakashvili in Georgia, say that Bakhtadze changed his route to the US and stopped in Brussels to meet with Zelensky, the reports which were strongly dismissed by the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

"Staying in Brussels was decided on the last minute as the US ambassador to the EU requested Bakhtadze to attend an event dedicated to the Independence Day of America," Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said.

Saakashvili, who came to Kyiv on May 29, a day after restoration his Ukrainian citizenship, says that his Movement of New Forces, he registered in 2017 in Ukraine after he opposed his former ally, ex-President Petro Poroshenko, faces "artificial difficulties" to run in July 21 snap elections.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko offered Saakashvili to chair his UDAR party to run in the race.

"UDAR goes to snap parliamentary elections. And I invite our partners to go together. I remain the leader of the UDAR Party, and I offer Saakashvili to head the party," Klitschko said.

Saakashvili asked advice from his supporters as if he accepts the offer "the UDAR party will have to be wholly changed and freedom from Poroshenko's allies and corrupt politicians."

Political expert Khatuna Lagazidze says that Saakashvili "will use the offer."

Fellow expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze says that the chairmanship of UDAR might become a burden for Saakashvili.

"I do not know what the rating of the UDAR party is, whether it has chances to gain seats in parliament. Caring about the party is the burden for Klitschko, and he needs someone else who will do it instead. Consequently, if Saakashvili accepts the offer and fails to win seats, the chairmanship might become a blind alley for him," Sakvarelidze said.

Saakashvili and Poroshenko were university friends, and the latter granted the Ukrainian citizenship to Saakashvili in 2015 and appointed him as Odessa governor the same year.

In 2016 Saakashvili opposed Poroshenko, accused him of lobbying corruption and created a party to oppose him.

Saakashvili held large-scale rallies in Ukraine against Poroshenko in 2017. That year he was deprived of his Ukrainian citizenship and was deported to Poland in early 2018.

The reason Poroshenko named for the annulment of Saakashvili's citizenship was that Saakashvili hid he was charged in Georgia with several possible crimes, which Saakashvili called "absurd." Another reason was Saakashvili's attempt to remove Poroshenko from Ukraine's politics.

Saakashvili, who served as Georgia's third president from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2008 to 2013, is accused of the violent dispersal of anti-government mass protests on November 7, 2007, in Tbilisi; unlawful raiding of Imedi TV Company by riot police and the illegal take-over of property owned by late media tycoon Badri (Arkadi) Patarkatsishvili.

He says the accusations are "invented."

When Saakashvili took up Ukrainian citizenship in 2015, he automatically lost the Georgian citizenship as the dual citizenship of Georgia is possible only with the permission of the president.

From 2017 until May 28, 2019, Saakashvili had no citizenship of any country.