Ukraine’s Bessarabia elects People’s Governor to defend itself from Kiev, Saakashvili

Bessarabia’s People’s Governor, Aleksandr Yankov © Народная Рада
A popular gathering of Bessarabian residents in the Odessa Region of Ukraine has elected a People’s Governor to protect them from the Kiev authorities and newly-appointed regional head ex-Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili.

The so-called “veche” was organized in the Kominternovsky district of the Odessa Region on Wednesday by the People’s Parliament of Bessarabia, which is pushing for Bessarabia to be granted the status of national and cultural autonomy.

Bessarabia is a historic eastern European region between the Dniester and Prut rivers that now mostly belongs to Moldova, with its southern regions bordering the Black Sea being part of Ukraine.

The people at the gathering were holding banners, reading "Down with [Ukrainian president Petro] Poroshenko,""We stand for a free Bessarabia,""Saakashvili, go home," and “Saakashvili, stop lying,” among others.

During the “veche,” Aleksandr Yankov, who used to be a senior investigator in the Odessa Prosecutor's Office, was elected as Bessarabia’s People’s Governor.

"I see my mission in protecting the interests of Bessarabia’s citizens in the face of the regional and federal authorities, in the face of officials, who have forgot what their obligations are,” Yankov was cited as saying by the People’s Parliament of Bessarabia’s website.

The leader of the People’s Parliament of Bessarabia, Vera Shevchenko, has fully backed Yankov’s appointment as People’s Governor.

"Bessarabia doesn’t trust Saakashvili. Bessarabia doesn’t trust Poroshenko. So today we have elected a defender for ourselves, the People’s Governor of Bessarabia. He will defend our interests in the administrative offices,” she told the organization’s website.

Shevchenko missed out on the “veche” due to being on hunger strike to protest repressions by Kiev authorities against opposition activists.

READ MORE: Ex-Georgian president, wanted at home, becomes governor in Ukraine

In late May, the appointment of the former Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, as the Odessa governor has angered many in the region.

Saakashvili, who was Georgia’s leader from 2004 to 2013, is on the wanted list in Georgia for embezzlement, abuse of power and politically-motivated attacks.

His presidency is also remembered for the South Ossetia War in August 2008 when the Georgian military was ordered to attack Russian peacekeepers and shell the capital of the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, Tskhinval.

Saakashvili has been a long-time supporter of the current Kiev administration, ever since its heads were leaders of the Maidan movement, which toppled then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in the February 2014 coup.

Since taking charge of the Odessa Region, Saakashvili gave up his Georgian citizenship and appointed Russian opposition figure Maria Gaidar as his deputy, with both decisions causing uproar in Georgia and Ukraine.