On February 12, 2018, Mikheil Saakashvili, former Odessa governor and ex-president of Georgia, was deported from Ukraine to Poland by the Poroshenko government in Ukraine. He continues his political activities from abroad.
Using Facebook to broadcast over the weekend, he addressed fellow party members from “Rukh novich sil,” along with as many as five thousand supporters who attended the “March for the Future” meeting in the center of Kiev. Participants demanded the resignation of President Petro Poroshenko. Mikheil Saakashvili assured protesters that he dreams of reuniting with Ukrainians.
The main theme for the event was Saakashvili’s return to Ukraine and the continuation of the struggle to remove the Ukrainian president. Mikheil Saakashvili has already filed a lawsuit in the District Administrative Court of the City of Kiev against the State Migration Service, the State Border Service, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, asking that the actions against him by the three structures when he returned to Poland be declared illegal.
At the same time, the first week of Mikheil Saakashvili’s visit to Europe complicated the discussion among experts and citizens about the extraordinary personality of the politician, the legality of his deportation, and even his further political career.
Oleg Slobodyan, press secretary of the Ukrainian State Border Service, said: “This person was in the territory of Ukraine illegally, and therefore, in accordance with all legal procedures, he was returned to the country from where he came.”
But even so, many support Saakashvili, believing there is no legal basis for deportation, and all of this was done to eliminate a political opponent.
Eight political parties, along with the public movement Khvilya, published a joint statement regarding the political persecution of Mikheil Saakashvili:
“On February 12, 2018, President Poroshenko and the power agencies under his control committed an openly unconstitutional and illegal act – brutally forcefully kicked out of the country by the Ukrainian politician, the leader of the” Rukh novich sil”, the third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili. To get rid of one of the leaders of the opposition, the authorities committed political violence, violated human rights and inflicted enormous damage to Ukraine’s international reputation.”
The authors demand that ”Mikheil Saakashvili return to Ukraine” and “to protect his rights and dignity in Ukrainian courts.” The statement contains appeals to Ukrainians and world leaders, with calls to support Saakashvili.
Foreign analysts have offered different points of view.
Polish politicians were worried that the deportation of Saakashvili could exacerbate an already tense situation between Poland and Ukraine. However, their concerns were short-lived, because Saakashvili quickly left the territory of Poland and moved to the Netherlands, where he received an identity card.
Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on his Twitter account: “Depriving Saakashvili of his only citizenship is an obvious violation of his human rights. Forced deportation only aggravates the situation.”
Journalist Frank Herold, from the German daily Tagesspiegel, writes that the political career of Mikheil Saakashvili at this stage is over. Herold suggests that the personal weaknesses of the politician are too obvious, there are too few Ukrainians sympathetic to him, and that he failed in Ukraine.
However, independent analyst Willem Aldershoff (formerly at the European Commission) believes that Mikheil Saakashvili’s critics underestimate him, and “do not give sufficient due to what he stands for and wants to sincerely achieve for Ukraine.” Aldershoff has written extensively on the need for fundamental reforms in Ukraine’s judiciary, secret service, office of the prosecutor, and the electoral system.
Despite the differing assessments of Mikheil Saakashvili, analysts agree that real reforms in Ukraine are possible only with massive and persistent demands and protests by Ukrainian citizens.
What is clear is that the case of Saakashvili’s relationship to Ukraine will not be closed any time soon.
Margarita Aleksandrenko (Kiev, Ukraine)