Supporters of the former Governor of Odessa, Mikheil Saakashvili, have used force to defy the Ukrainian authorities and get their man over the Polish border into Ukraine.
The Ukrainians had blocked his train from entering over the Polish border, where he was met by some Ukrainian lawmakers.
“They act like how the Soviet Union used to act when they wanted to get rid of a dissident: they waited until they went abroad then stole their citizenship. The Ukrainians, President Poroshenko, act exactly like Soviet times like the KGB acted. Well, I think we no longer live in Soviet times and we have our own country which has rules and laws,” he claimed as he waited for hours at the border station.
The Ukrainian lawmakers joined thousands of his supporters, who had set up a tented camp on the Polish side after he was stopped by Ukrainian border police but they were then swept aside by the crowd.
Among the Ukrainian figures joining him was former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is attempting to make a political comeback.
Saakashvili is currently stateless as both Georgia and Ukraine have stripped him of citizenship. Georgia has demanded his extradition from Ukraine on charges he says are politically motivated.
Saakashvili, who was once President of Georgia, was given the Odessa job by President Petro Poroshenko amid high hopes he would have the clout to get a grip on the vital port city, now Ukraine’s unique maritime window on the world following the loss of Crimea’s ports, and with Mariupol seriously affected by the war in the east.
However, he had mixed results and dealt poorly with the wealthy city’s entrenched business factions, and was accused of draining the administrative swamp only to replace it with loyalists. He appeared set on reproducing a similar vertical power structure that had initially served him well in Georgia but led to accusations of authoritarianism. When criticism against him mounted, he then lashed out at Poroshenko, just as convinced that, with a war to fight, he needs an equally firm grip on everything and can brook no challenges.
Saakashvili eventually began to put together plans for a new political party of his own and become leader of the opposition, provoking Poroshenko to take away his Ukrainian citizenship.