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Ex-President Saakashvili pledges to tour Ukraine

Ex-President Saakashvili pledges to tour Ukraine”

Surrounded by supporters, Saakashvili broke through a cordon of Ukrainian border guards at the Ukraine-Poland border Sunday.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had earlier called the border breach by Saakashvili "an attack on the state's basic institutions" and said all those responsible should turn themselves in.

"I am fighting against rampant corruption, against the fact that oligarchs are in full control of Ukraine again, against the fact that the Maidan has been betrayed", he said.

In a country that, in the past four years, has witnessed high political drama, invasion and war - from the ouster of a Moscow-backed president by popular street protests to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the Kremlin fomenting of conflict and separatism in the Donbas in the east of the country - Sunday's circus-like incident may seem minor by comparison.

Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015 when he was granted Ukrainian citizenship in order to take up Poroshenko's offer to become governor of the Black Sea region of Odesa.

Kiev is "panicking", Saakashvili said, adding that he did "not want to overthrow President Poroshenko" but just defend his rights.

Back home in Georgia, he started out as an internationally praised reformer but later he was criticised for monopolising power and exerting pressure on the judiciary. He was president at the time of a disastrous five-day war with Russian Federation in 2008, a conflict that his critics argued was the result of his own miscalculations. "This is very sad", Saakashvili said Friday in Warsaw.

Their relationship dates back almost three decades to when they were students at the same university in Kiev and their shared opposition to the Russian government brought them together as politicians.

Saakashvili has said he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship by his one-time ally Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko because Poroshenko views him as a threat.

A criminal investigation was launched against Saakashvili after he defied Ukrainian authorities and returned to the country that stripped him of citizenship in July.

Now, Saakashvili wants to return to challenge that decision in court and get back into politics.

Saakashvili said "several hundred thugs were mobilised by the Ukrainian government to stop several thousand" of his supporters waiting to greet him on the Ukrainian side.

"Now this is a matter of law enforcement agencies and they have begun to act", Poroshenko said.

Ukraine's record of implementing reforms has been patchy since Poroshenko took office in 2014.

"We believe that Mikheil Saakashvili can lead our country out of the crisis", Lyudmyla Goretska, one of thousands of supporters waiting in Krakovets on the Ukrainian side of the border, told AFP. However, Saakashvili said in August that he is going to come back to Ukraine from Poland on September 10, 2017.

Reuters also reported that reformist lawmaker Mustafa Nayyem, one of the leaders of the Maidan protests and a member of Poroshenko's faction in parliament, traveled with Saakashvili and has accused Kyiv authorities of trying to silence opponents.

Kiev could leave Saakashvili alone, arrest him and possibly extradite him to Georgia. The 49-year-old is now wanted on criminal charges in Georgia, which he says were trumped up for political reasons.



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