MS Risk Blog

Ukrainian Opposition Leader Saakashvili has been Deported from Ukraine

Posted on in Ukraine title_rule

Following months of rising tension between the Ukrainian government and former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has finally resulted in Saakashvili’s deportation from Ukraine which spurred a massive backlash from his supporters who are calling for Saakashvili’s former ally Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s resignation.

Following a Ukrainian court ruling that Saakashvili was residing in the country illegally, Ukrainian Immigration officials informed Saakashvili on 12 February that he was going to be deported back to Poland. The courts had ruled that Saakashvili had illegally crossed to Ukraine on 19 September 2017 after the Ukrainian government had stripped him of his citizenship while he was travelling abroad. Earlier in the day on 12 February Saakashvili supporters posted a video which allegedly showed unidentified men in camouflage detain Saakashvili in a Kiev restaurant. Saakashvili’s lawyer, Ruslan Chornolutsky has called the incident a kidnapping rather than a detainment. It was reported that Saakashvili was thrown into a van and then transported from Kiev to Warsaw via helicopter. Polish authorities confirmed on 12 February that Saakashvili had been admitted into Poland at the request Ukrainian immigration authorities. In an interview with Polish Radio RMF FM, Saakashvili confirmed that he had been deported to Poland and that Polish authorities were treating him well. Saakashvili, through a Facebook statement, called the deportation illegal and said that the deportation has shown Poroshenko’s weakness and then called Poroshenko “a sneaky speculator who wants to destroy Ukraine.”

After the deportation on 12 February, thousands of Saakashvili’s supporters took the streets to protest the deportation and also demanded the impeachment of Poroshenko. Ukrainian police estimated that 3,000 protesters were in attendance while non-governmental sources claim as many as 10,000 protesters were in attendance Protesters carried banners with a red line drawn over Poroshenko’s face and chanted “impeachment”, “resignation” and “Poroshenko is a thief.” It was also reported that Ukrainian authorities shut down nine metro stations in central Kiev due to bomb alerts. However, claims have been made that the closures were to prevent other demonstrators from joining the protests.

On February 14 It was reported that Saakashvili had travelled from Poland to the Netherlands and to apply for Dutch residency. Saakashvili is married to a Dutch national. Oscar Hammerstein, another lawyer representing Saakashvili, said that the request had been arranged and approved by Dutch authorities. It was also reported that the Dutch justice ministry in 2017 made it known that they were willing to help Saakashvili and allow him to stay in the country on the basis of family reunification.

On 29 May 2015 Poroshenko granted Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship and then on 30 May 2015 Poroshenko appointed Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa Oblast. Relations soured between the two when Saakashvili resigned from his position on 7 November 2016 and joined the opposition against Poroshenko. Saakashvili accused Poroshenko of obstructing his attempts at government reform, fighting corruption and that the Ukrainian government lacked commitment to reform. Saakashvili has faced multiple criminal investigations and has been arrested by Ukrainian authorities multiple times. On 5 January A Georgian court sentenced Saakashvili in absentia to three years in prison for seeking to cover up evidence about the murder of a Georgian banker when he was president – a verdict which he denounced as illegal. Saakashvili has also been accused of abusing his power during his time as Georgian president.