News and analysis compiled on New Cold War.org, Sept 11, 2017
Ex-Georgian leader Saakashvili barges across Ukraine border
By Sergei Karazy and Margaryta Chornokondratenko, Reuters, Sept 10, 2017 (with photo gallery)
SHEHYNI, Ukraine (Reuters) – Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili and a crowd of supporters barged past guards to enter Ukraine from the Polish border on Sunday [September 10] after a prolonged standoff between Saakashvili and the Ukrainian authorities.
Amid shouts of “victory” and “glory to Ukraine”, Saakashvili returned to Ukraine despite being stripped of Ukrainian citizenship by his one-time ally, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and facing possible arrest and deportation.
In 2015, Poroshenko invited Saakashvili to be a regional governor to help drive reforms after protests in 2014 ousted a pro-Russian president in Kiev. But Saakashvili quit as governor of Odessa in November of 2016, accusing Poroshenko of abetting corruption.
Thousands of Saakashvili’s supporters gathered on the border on Sunday while prominent lawmakers, including former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, traveled with him from Poland.
Saakashvili had tried to cross the border by train but the train did not leave its station in the Polish town of Przemysl. The woman in charge of the Ukrainian train said she had been ordered by the authorities – she declined to specify whether Polish or Ukrainian – to stop the train leaving until Saakashvili got off. He then traveled by bus to the border and was stopped by guards who sealed off the area, causing a tailback of vehicles. Supporters pushed their way through and escorted him across.
“I came with my Ukrainian passport, I wanted to show my passport and make a statement,” a triumphant Saakashvili told supporters after crossing. “Instead, the authorities arranged this circus.”
Poroshenko’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
“The crowd broke through the Shehyni checkpoint,” Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border service, wrote on Facebook. “The fight started. It’s hard to predict the consequences of this situation.”
A statement by the border service said several police and border guards were injured during the clash and said a group of people, whom it did not name, had crossed the border illegally.
Saakashvili took power in Georgia after a peaceful pro-Western uprising, known as the Rose Revolution, in 2003. The 49-year-old is now wanted on criminal charges in Georgia, which he says were trumped up for political reasons.
Loathed by the Kremlin, Saakashvili was once a natural ally for Poroshenko after Moscow annexed [sic] Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014. But he has become one of the Ukrainian president’s most vocal critics, casting doubt on the Western-backed authorities’ commitment to tackle entrenched corruption.
Saakashvili has accused the Ukrainian authorities of using pressure tactics to deter him from returning to Kiev, where he has launched a campaign to unseat Poroshenko. Speaking to reporters earlier in the Polish city of Rzeszow, Saakashvili said Poroshenko viewed him as an “existential threat”.
“It looks like he is getting rid of a political opponent and no matter how many times he says that I am not a danger to him, every action of his shows exactly the opposite, that he regards me as a great and immediate danger,” he said.
‘Ukraine revolution turning incredibly sour’
The former Georgian President and Governor of Odessa Mikhail Saakashvili has illegally crossed the Ukrainian border with the help of supporters. Saakashvili recently became stateless, after having his Ukrainian citizenship revoked by President Petro Poroshenko. The Ukrainian police say he will now face criminal charges.
The fact Mikhail Saakashvili played a prominent role in Ukrainian politics shows the disarray in Ukraine, explains journalist Martin Summers to RT. The economy is in free fall, and the potential of joining NATO might spark further war in the country, he added.
RT: What do you think happened between the current Ukrainian leadership and Saakashvili? Has he fallen out of Poroshenko’s favor, and why?
Martin Summers: …They don’t get on at all, and [Saakashvili] lost his citizenship. It is hard to see why he fell out. He claimed it was corruption going on. He was being blocked by the government in Kiev. It is hard to know who is right and who is wrong about that.
It is probably the worst corruption going on. Saakashvili himself is wanted for corruption in Georgia, as we know. Of course, the danger for him of coming back like this is that the Ukrainian authorities might extradite him back to Georgia to face trial there. So he is taking a bit of a risk by trying to come back into the country. They are obviously not on the same page at the moment.
The politics in current Ukraine are very opaque. You’ve got a lot of oligarchs of various kinds jostling for position. The economy itself is in a terrible state. They don’t know what to do about it. The population has not had much joy from this revolution – let’s put it that way.
RT: How did it happen that both Poroshenko and Saakashvili, being two US darlings, are now at loggerheads? In 2014 Saakashvili supported the Maidan revolution that brought Poroshenko to power.
MS: US darlings can fall out with each other. It may be that the US has decided that Poroshenko is going to be thrown under the bus and Saakashvili is being used as a pawn to try and bring that about. Saakashvili has got a track record for being a loose cannon in his own righ,t anyway. People may remember him eating his tie on television in Georgia when he started the war in Ossetia. He is a bit of a dangerous clown.
RT: What do you make of Saakashvili’s personality, given that after being a resident of one country, he gave up his native citizenship in favor of another? Yet now he’s left without any?
MS: He lost his Georgian citizenship, he lost his Ukrainian citizenship. If he comes back in Ukraine, he might be extradited to Georgia. Or he may just have to go back to Poland and hang around there in a stateless way. I don’t know how this is going to play out. It’s all a game of cat and mouse, isn’t it?
RT: How was it even possible that Saakashvili was given such an important role in Ukraine? What does it say about the Ukrainian state of affairs in the recent years?
MS: It is very odd that he played such a big role in Ukrainian politics since he isn’t Ukrainian and had been given the governorship of the Odessa, which is a key region, especially since it has got a large Russian population. He was parachuted in by the Western powers.
I think what is going on – it just shows in what disarray Ukrainian politics are. The revolution is turning incredibly sour – nobody really knows what to do next. The economy is in free fall, they are not going to be joining the EU anytime soon. They are talking about joining NATO – but all that will do is potentially spark further war…
The government in Kiev is very weak. The population is very unhappy. The war has been a failure in every possible way you can imagine. I don’t see a very good future for Ukraine, unless there is a change in the geopolitical situation, which allows the situation to stabilize so their Russian neighbors and their Western neighbors can cooperate better, so they can cooperate better. But I am not holding my breath.
Moscow to bring U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia to parity with Russia’s missions in U.S., RT.com, Sept 11, 2017