Saakashvili Named New Governor of Odessa

The newly appointed Governor of Odessa, Mikheil Saakashvili declared “zero tolerance for corruption” in Ukraine, as the country appears to seek reforms similar to those of Georgia under Saakashvili’s presidency.

Ukraine’s Odessa, one of the largest seaports in the Black Sea region and an economic artery for Ukraine, has been trusted to Saakashvili, currently also occupying the parallel position of a reforms adviser to President Poroshenko. There are hopes that the Georgian revolutionary will create a success story in Odessa, an area which some believe is a target for Russia’s Putin after having annexed Crimea last year.

Saakashvili’s activities have been met with mixed reactions from within the political world in his homeland. The Georgian Dream government, which has condemned the country’s ex-President for his “bloody politics” during his 9-year tenure, have long opposed Saakashvili, describing his period in power as a failure.

Interestingly, Saakashvili’s new occupation grants him Ukrainian citizenship, which protects him from potential prosecution from the Georgian authorities. All parties opposed to the former president, including the current President Margvelashvili criticized the decision.

Saakashvili says Ukrainian law allows him to have a two-year transitory period, when one can keep another country’s citizenship concurrently with the newly acquired Ukrainian citizenship. “Therefore, Ukrainian legislation does not represent a problem, and I think that two years are more than enough,” said the former Georgian president. 

“Depriving someone of his Georgian citizenship is within the President’s power, but if the current President makes this step, I’m sure it will not be a decisive factor, because by the time I come back to Georgia (which will happen much sooner than many think), people will make him rescind this decision along with all criminal charges leveled against me,” Saakashvili assumed. 

“Eduard Shevardnadze was not a Georgian citizen when he arrived in Georgia, but he became the country’s leader. Nor did Ivanishvili have Georgian citizenship during his election campaign. So why this issue should become an obstacle only for me?” the ex-president maintains.  

Saakashvili currently equates his Georgian citizenship to being thrown into a cell together with his friends. “Of course, I wanted to prevent things from going this way, but in the current circumstances – when I cannot visit Georgia due to a threat of arrest – my citizenship does not change anything,” he noted. 

In fact, Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili has not confirmed whether former President Saakashvili could arrive in Georgia with a diplomatic passport as Governor of Odessa.

Georgian Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani has told media that no legal measures are available for Saakashvili’s extradition after his acceptance of Ukrainian citizenship.

Analysis by Georgia Today’s Zviad Adzinbaia:

The rivalry between Ivanishvili and Saakashvili continues, as there are principal differences between the personalities and the teams of UNM and GD in their value systems. At the same time, Georgia has fallen into an abyss of economic and political crisis. The West, which has invested much in the country’s progress, expects relevant results from the EU-associated state. What should Georgians expect in the 2016 elections? Does the country still have the potential to traverse the murky ground on which it stands?

04 June 2015 19:52