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28 May, 2019 16:19

Guess who’s back? Ukraine returns citizenship to eccentric former Georgian president Saakashvili

Guess who’s back? Ukraine returns citizenship to eccentric former Georgian president Saakashvili

Ukraine’s newly minted President Volodymyr Zelensky has restored the Ukrainian citizenship of Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president and onetime governor of Odessa.

“Thank you President Zelensky! Glory to Ukraine,” Saakashvili announced on Facebook on Tuesday, linking to the presidential decree granting him re-entry. Saakashvili later said he will return to Ukraine on Wednesday.

Saakashvili served as Georgia’s head of state from 2004 to 2007, and again from 2008 to 2013. He presided over the caucasian state during its conflict with Russia in 2008, and traded his Georgian citizenship for Ukrainian papers in 2015. After serving as governor of the Odessa region, Saakashvili was booted from Ukraine by then-President Petro Poroshenko in 2017, and barred from entering the country until 2021.

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Prior to kicking Saakashvili from Ukraine, Poroshenko had sheltered the former Georgian leader, who was wanted for numerous charges in his home country, including embezzlement, corruption, and brutality against protesters.

Saakashvili was a prominent critic of Russia and Vladimir Putin during his time in exile, and after some time hobnobbing with the late Senator John McCain in Washington, found willing hosts in Ukraine’s anti-Russian government.

His luck changed when he turned on Poroshenko, accusing the Ukrainian leader of corruption and forming a rival political party, the Movement of New Forces. Barred from entering Ukraine while on a foreign trip in 2017, Saakashvili attempted to re-enter the country several months later, and was eventually arrested and deported to Poland in February 2018.

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