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3 Feb, 2020 15:41

Life in Ukraine worse than during USSR, country may split into FIVE states – Georgia’s controversial ex-leader Saakashvili

Life in Ukraine worse than during USSR, country may split into FIVE states – Georgia’s controversial ex-leader Saakashvili

Just when you thought he’d finally gone away, Mikhail Saakashvili has popped up on Ukrainian TV to predict that his adopted nation will collapse. He also told viewers they lived better under the Soviet regime.

The former Odessa governor and Georgian president didn’t hold back during an appearance on the 112 Ukraine TV channel.

“Ukraine’s cities have never been in such bad condition, and every year it’s getting worse and worse,” he said, adding that while the “whole world” is moving forward and developing, the country has been left behind.

“Kiev, Ukraine is now much worse than Kiev and Ukraine during the times of the USSR,” he explained. “I’ve been coming to Kiev since 1985… It’s getting worse and worse, you can see all of it. The roads, the facades of the buildings, the city infrastructure.” He added that, during his time as leader, Georgia improved in ways that Ukraine hasn’t, while stressing that he has no nostalgia for the Soviet-era.

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Saakashvili didn’t stop there, going on to predict that Ukraine will break up into five independent states. The one-time darling of the West said an economic crisis leading to “the collapse of the country” is inevitable because of the “failed policies” of President Volodymyr Zelensky. And, amidst the fallout, regional elites will take power into their own hands, using armed groups to assert their independence from Kiev.

“There are local (bosses) who are already bursting with money, (with) private armies,” he warned. “For example, Gennady Trukhanov (mayor of Odessa) has a private army, the mayor of Kharkov, Gennady Kernes, has his own army… they are preparing the ground for Ukraine to be split into five.”

Ukrainians since independence “haven’t seen an example of success” which could convince them of the country’s potential, according to Saakashvili. “Now the main challenge is to, at least somewhere, achieve some progress so that people can believe that something can work (in this country),” he added.

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Saakashvili left Georgia in 2013 after a number of criminal cases were opened against him; he was sentenced to prison terms in his absence for some of the crimes. In the spring of 2015, he entered Ukrainian politics when former leader Petro Poroshenko, appointed him governor of the Odessa region, after granting him citizenship. He had a connection to the country, having studied in Kiev as a young man.

However, in November 2016 Poroshenko fired Saakashvili, citing incompetence, and the Georgian reinvented himself as an opposition firebrand. The following summer, Poroshenko revoked Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship, seen by many as an attempt to neuter a potential political rival. His passport was returned last year when Zelensky won the presidency.

Saakashvili served nine years as Georgian president, over two terms, taking power after the US-backed 2003 ‘Rose Revolution.’ Tbilisi’s opposition accused him of authoritarian tendencies and carrying out electoral fraud.

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