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Georgia’s ex-president shaking up politics in Ukraine

By Scott Taylor      

His threat last week to jump from an eight-storey building rather than be arrested is the latest in Mikheil Saakashvili’s dramatic political history.

Mikheil Saakashvili was Georgia's president for nine years until 2013, the year he's pictured, and later became a governor in Ukraine. Photograph courtesy of the European People's Party
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OTTAWA—Last week, there was a bizarre incident in the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Ukrainian security forces had descended on an apartment building with the intent of arresting Mikheil Saakashvili on charges of having taken money with the intent of destabilizing Ukraine.

Rather than submit quietly to authorities, Saakashvili took to the roof of his eight-storey apartment block and threatened to jump. Eventually, the police were able to forcibly bundle the defiant Saakashvili into a van, but by that time protesters had arrived to block the street.

After an hour-long violent standoff between riot police and Saakashvili’s supporters, the prisoner was released from the van and herded through the crowd.

Not content with simply having secured his temporary freedom, this chap Saakashvili then proceeded to lead the crowd to the Ukrainian parliament buildings where he gave an impassioned speech. He called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko a “traitor to Ukraine” and accused him of being “the head of an organized crime gang.”

As for the police trying to arrest him, Saakashvili denounced this as the Kyiv regime “trying to get rid of a loud voice telling them they are thieves.”

This week, he was freed from detention once again after a judge scrapped prosecutors’ request to put him under house arrest.

The crazy part about all of this is that Saakashvili is the former president of nearby Georgia, and a former ally of Poroshenko. The allegations levelled by Saakashvili against Poroshenko are not some Russian media “fake news” story, but rather insight from someone who was, until recently, part of the Kyiv regime’s inner circle.

Educated in the United States, Saakashvili was America’s strongest ally in the Caucasus when he ruled Georgia from 2004 until 2013. He was elected on an anti-corruption platform, but his popularity waned as his methods became increasingly authoritarian.

Saakashvili’s failed military operation against the breakaway territory of South Ossetia in 2008 resulted in Russian intervention and a huge setback for the Georgian armed forces.

After his party lost elections, Saakashvili was himself facing charges of abuse of power.

Opportunity for resurrection soon knocked when unrest unfolded with the December 2013 Maidan Square protests in Kyiv. Saakashvili became an ardent supporter of the anti-Russian movement, which eventually ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

In 2015, Poroshenko rewarded Saakashvili by appointing him as the governor of Odesa. To assume the post, Saakashvili had to become a Ukrainian citizen, which in turn meant renouncing his Georgian citizenship, as his home country does not allow dual citizenship.

It was a bit of a no-brainer choice for Saakashvili, as any return to Georgia would see him arrested on the outstanding charges. However, by the end of 2016, Saakashvili made a bold statement by resigning his post as governor. He publicly blamed Poroshenko for the continued corruption in Ukraine and threatened to create his own opposition political party.

While Saakashvili was back in the U.S. earlier this year, Poroshenko issued a presidential decree revoking the ex-governor’s Ukrainian citizenship.

Despite now being publicly stateless, Saakashvili made a grand—albeit illegal—re-entry into Ukraine this past September with the help of a crowd of supporters.

Less than three months later, in another comic opera drama, Ukrainian crowds have now once again intervened to secure Saakashvili’s freedom.

Canada has played a role in the Ukraine crisis from the outset. Then-foreign affairs minister John Baird visited protesters in Maidan Square. Since February 2014, we have sunk millions of dollars into not only initiatives aimed at democratic reforms, but also training of the Ukrainian military forces used to prop up the Kyiv regime.

These days, Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is of Ukrainian descent, continues to offer Canada’s 100 per cent support to the Ukrainian government.

While Freeland purports to support the people of Ukraine, it must be noted that Poroshenko in recent months had just a two per cent strong approval rating; allowing for a margin of error, this equates to almost zero. Then there is Saakashvili, who is presenting himself as his adopted country’s anti-corruption saviour, while unable to return to his own country where he is himself wanted for abuse of power.

And somehow this is all Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fault?

Scott Taylor is editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine.

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