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Georgia’s Ex-President Saakashvili Claims Ukrainian Authorities Seek His Arrest

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, December 1
(KYIV) — Georgia’s exiled Former President Mikheil Saakashvili claimed Wednesday that his once-ally-turned-bitter-rival, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, has issued an order for his arrest after the former was accused of attempting to organize a coup against the democratically elected government in Kyiv.

Saakashvili, who from 2015-16 served as governor of Ukraine’s strategic Odessa region after fleeing Georgia three years earlier, now heads an opposition party known as the Movement of New Forces.

The party’s main goal is to oust Poroshenko and continue with the radical free-market reforms and anticorruption measures that began shortly after Ukraine’s 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution ousted the country’s pro-Russian, authoritarian ex-President Viktor Yanukovych.

“Poroshenko has completely crossed the red line with the order to have me arrested,” said Saakashvili, adding that he believes law enforcement officials will attempt to arrest him before he’s scheduled to lead an opposition protest rally on December 3.

Saakashvili, 49, denies the charge that he’s organizing a coup against Poroshenko’s government, calling the allegations “a complete fabrication” concocted by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Yuri Lustenko.

“I’m not the problem in this country. What plagues Ukraine is the complete falsification of evidence that was ordered by Poroshenko,” Saakashvili told Ukraine’s NewsOne TV channel on Wednesday.

Saakashvili’s party plans to open 500 offices throughout Ukraine in the days after the December 3 rally in an effort to drum up public support for Poroshenko’s impeachment.

Georgian opposition United National Movement (UNM) party, founded by Saakashvili in 2001, said in a statement that any attempt to arrest Saakashvili will lead to dire consequences for Ukraine’s incumbent authorities and complicate relations between Kyiv and Tbilisi.

UNM member Roman Gotsiridze says that Poroshenko and ex-Prime Minister of Georgia, tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, are acting together against of Saakashvili.

“The truth is on Saakashvili’s side. He is a politician of European scale and his arrest might become ending of some politicians’ career,” said Gotsiridze.

The US Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, expressed hope that the rule of law will be respected in Ukraine.

“‘I have not seen this order, but I would like to say that Ukraine, like Georgia, is an important partner of the United States. We want to see Ukraine succeed as a democratic state...I believe our partners will respect the rule of law and individual rights,” said Kelly.

After a decade as Georgia’s president, Saakashvili hastily left the country in 2013 following a crushing election defeat at the hands of the Georgian Dream, then led by its founder, billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Fearing prosecution for alleged corruption and abuse of power charges during his term in office, Saakashvili first settled in New York before moving to Kyiv in late 2013 to support the popular revolution against the Kremlin-controlled Yanukovych.

Poroshenko granted Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship in May 2015, after appointing him as Governor of Odessa. Georgian authorities quickly stripped Saakashvili of his citizenship for violating the country’s dual citizenship laws.

Saakashvili quit as Odessa’s governor in November 2016, accusing Poroshenko of protecting the business interests of Ukraine’s powerful oligarchs and organized crime members, many of who continue to have deep business connections to their counterparts in Russia, despite Moscow’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and the Crimea Peninsula.

Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship in July while the latter was on a business trip to the US. Saakashvili, now stateless, was allowed to enter into Poland before ilegally forcing his way across the border and back into Ukraine in early September.

He attempted to apply for refugee status, but was denied after being classified as a national security threat by Ukraine’s powerful SBU intelligence services.