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Saakashvili deported to Poland, vows to return to Ukraine

Saakashvili deported to Poland, vows to return to Ukraine

13 February 2018

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former head of the Odesa
regional administration who has led mass protests to impeach President
Poroshenko, was detained in Kyiv and deported by the State Border Service on
Feb. 13. He was delivered by private charter plane to Polish border
authorities, news reports said, for having forcibly entered Ukraine in
September with the help of several dozen supporters. The Polish Border Service
said it readmitted Saakashvili based on Ukrainian court rulings that determined
he entered the country illegally.

 

Saakashvili’s supporters described his detention as a
kidnapping, alleging that law enforcement didn’t present any identification and
didn’t allow him access to a lawyer. In his comments from Poland, Saakashvili
said Poroshenko had defeated himself in his decision to deport Saakashvili. He
vowed to return to Ukraine “absolutely legally” and succeed in replacing the
current government by peaceful means. He also appealed for support in his
conflict from the EU leadership and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in
particular.

 

Saakashvili had planned his latest political rally for
this weekend at Kyiv’s maidan to announce his endorsements for the candidates
for the presidency and the Cabinet. He had led protests since October every few
weeks demanding Poroshenko’s impeachment, drawing thousands of supporters.
Saakashvili was also scheduled to testify today in a court trial examining
criminal charges related to the February 2014 killings in the EuroMaidan protest.

 

Zenon Zawada: Key Western
authorities have distanced themselves from the conflict between Poroshenko and
Saakashvili as it has undermined unity – particularly in Ukraine – amid Russian
military aggression. We don’t expect a strong response to Saakashvili’s pleas
for support. Indeed Saakashvili is optimistic if he thinks he can return to
Ukraine legally. The Poroshenko administration will make it a top priority to
prevent his return at all costs since he is among the few people who have
enough trust among Ukrainians to lead mass protests.

 

It’s possible Saakashvili will make another attempt to
break through a border crossing with the help of his supporters. He is
motivated by the potential for renewing his political career in Ukraine, since
it’s the only place left where he can be active. His native Georgia stripped
him of his citizenship, as did the Ukrainian government last year. He has no
citizenship currently, though his wife is an EU citizen.

 

All these developments are laying the groundwork for a
maidan-style protest following the presidential elections (scheduled for March
2019) if Poroshenko continues to lag former PM Yulia Tymoshenko in the polls
and the official results don’t reflect exit polls. Tymoshenko was among the
first politicians to come to Saakashvili’s defense, calling upon the president
to “halt this reprisal.” She sees in Saakashvili a valuable political ally
should protests erupt regarding the election results.

 

In the big picture, this rivalry among Ukraine’s
pro-Western forces will only work in the Kremlin’s favor. A maidan-style
protest will not be effective and will more likely lead to chaos in the country
as the president’s numerous political opponents are too splintered and have no
one to rally around. This chaos could set the needed narrative pretext for
Russia to intervene militarily in Kyiv and impose its order on Ukraine.

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