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4 Oct, 2021 14:16

Jailed Georgian ex-president Saakashvili will NOT be handed to Ukraine, despite Zelensky’s vow to fight for his return – Tbilisi

Jailed Georgian ex-president Saakashvili will NOT be handed to Ukraine, despite Zelensky’s vow to fight for his return – Tbilisi

Tbilisi has no intention of handing over arrested former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili to Kiev, despite a vow by Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to try and bring him back. Saakashvili holds a Ukrainian passport.

Speaking on Monday, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Thea Tsulukiani announced that Saakashvili would serve his prison term in his home country.

“We have no wish to transfer Saakashvili to Ukraine to serve his prison term there,” the minister said at a briefing after the government meeting, noting that he was charged, found guilty, and sentenced in Georgia.

Tsulukiani’s words come after Zelensky revealed that he would personally work towards returning Saakashvili, as he would with any Ukrainian.

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“As the president of Ukraine, I am constantly engaged in returning Ukraine citizens to the country with various capabilities that I have,” Zelensky said. “Saakashvili is a Ukrainian citizen, so that applies to him as well.”

Saakashvili was detained on October 1 in a flat in Tbilisi after his return to Georgia. He was charged with illegally crossing the country’s border and was put in jail. The former president left his homeland in 2013 and, since then, has had a number of criminal cases brought against him for abuse of power. Overall, he has been sentenced to a combined nine years behind bars in absentia. He claims the charges are politically motivated.

Saakashvili was president of Georgia for nine years between 2004 and 2013, before moving to the US shortly after leaving office due to fears of prosecution.

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Two years later, he moved to Ukraine to become governor of Odessa Oblast, at the invitation of then-president Petro Poroshenko, who also granted him a Ukrainian passport.

This led to him losing his Georgian nationality, as the country forbids dual citizenship. Just two years later, after he left his post in Odessa, Poroshenko took away his Ukrainian nationality, leaving him stateless. Saakashvili then returned to the US, living in New York.

In 2020, he was invited back to Ukraine by Poroshenko’s successor, Volodymyr Zelensky, to head the country’s National Reform Committee.

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