GAME OF PASSPORTS: MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI AND HIS RETURN TO UKRAINE

17:21 12/9/2017
As the country enters a new «season» of pre-election struggle, it looks like the vacations are finally over for Ukrainian politicians. Winter is coming. Just like Saakashvili.

After being deprived of Ukrainian citizenship and left stateless by President Poroshenko in July 2017 (almost two years after it was granted), Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian President and ex-Governor of Odessa region, left the country due to possible arrest and extradition to Georgia, but had never disappeared from the pages of local media, and it was not long before he had announced his plans to cross the Ukrainian border in the inward direction. Since his departure from Ukraine he was residing in USA.

On September 10, the day Saakashvili himself had scheduled for his «breakthrough», an unusually large crowd had amassed near Krakovets checkpoint on the Ukrainian-Polish border. Politicians, journalists, civil activists and ordinary onlookers have all gathered to greet and support «Mikho» in his courageous endeavour. In Poland, Saakashvili with his wife and son were already escorted by a number of Ukrainian politicians, such as former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her ally Serhiy Vlasenko (both members of «Batkivshchina» party in the parliament), as well as a former journalist now being a deputy Mustafa Nayem (member of «Democratic Alliance» party) among others.

 

Following a failed attempt to enter Ukraine by a train running from Przemysl to Kyiv, which could not leave the starting point on time due to an order by an unnamed authority (based on the «presence of a passenger banned from entering Ukraine»), Saakashvili changed to a bus and reached the Polish border at Medyka-Shehyni crossing on the same evening. All other train passengers were promised a refund by Ukrzaliznytsia, the Ukrainian national railway company operating on the route. Polish authorities in Medyka warned Saakashvili about possible difficulties with his invalid passport (which he was using during the trip) on the Ukrainian side, where the road was already blocked by the military.

Just as the bus started moving towards Ukraine, it turned out that Shehyni checkpoint had been closed after a mining alert. Stuck between two countries, Saakashvili left the bus to communicate with his supporters and border guards, but was offered by the Ukrainian border principal to return to Poland until demining works have been finished.

 

 

Around 8 PM Saakashvili and his delegation were «squeezed» past the line of guards by a crowd of activists screaming out his name, thus finally entering Ukraine. Several National Guard soldiers were reportedly injured during this «civil operation». Once on the other side, Saakashvili left for Lviv, where he and his followers met Andriy Sadovyi, the city mayor. Later that evening, Saakashvili told the press that he was initially intending to submit his passport to Ukrainian authorities and seek protection from the state, staying in the company of his friends for the time of legal procedures.

 

On September 12, police and border guards read the administrative report on illegal border crossing to Saakashvili near the «Leopolis» hotel, where he was staying with his family (who left to Lviv airport the same day). The official papers were signed by him, although at first he said that they had to be handed during three hours after his entry. Saakashvili also claims that his passport was stolen at the border and passed on to President Poroshenko.

 

An unofficial Ukrainian «terrorist database» Myrotvorets (Center for Research of Signs of Crimes against the National Security of Ukraine, Peace, Humanity, and the International Law), created in 2014 following an initiative by officials from Interior Ministry (namely Anton Gerashenko, Advisor to Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine) and publishing personal data of the «enemies of Ukraine», has already set up profiles of Saakashvili and Tymoshenko.

State Border Guard Service of Ukraine is preparing an appeal to the Prosecutor`s General Office based on facts of illegal border crossing, entering a restricted ground and causing bodily injuries to the border security. State Service of Ukraine will also investigate the case. As of yet, 5 people were arrested, 32 are under suspicion and more than 100 were interrogated.

RECOMMENDED