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Former Georgian president Saakashvili cheered by supporters as he returns to Ukraine

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By Natalia Liubchenkova
Former Georgian president Saakashvili cheered by supporters as he returns to Ukraine
Copyright  Natalia Liuchenkova/Euronews

The former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, was greeted by cheering supporters and music at Kiev airport as he returned from exile to Ukraine on Wednesday.

The country's newly-elected president Volodymyr Zelensky made the move to reinstate his citizenship, amending the order of his predecessor Petro Poroshenko.

"I will just look around," he told reporters when asked where he saw his future in Ukrainian politics, after landing on a flight from Warsaw.

"Yes we have lots of supporters, yes we have lots of very enthusiastic supporters. You are seeing it with your own eyes. But I am very impressed by the new president."

Saakashvili said he was "here to help" if Zelenskiy's team sought his advice, but added: "I am not here for any positions, I am not looking for positions."

Saakashvili was last known to be living in the Netherlands after a falling out with Poroshenko, who stripped the ex-Georgian leader of his Ukrainian citizenship back in July 2017.

The two had known each other for many years: they both graduated from the Institute of International Relations, Kyiv, in the same year.

While the 51-year-old said he did not want to exact revenge on anyone, the timing of his return means he could be a thorn in Poroshenko's side as his party gears up to fight a snap parliamentary election in July.

Saakashvili supported Ukraine's “Maidan Revolution” that helped sweep Poroshenko to power.

In May 2015 Poroshenko appointed Saakashvili as a governor of Odessa region, which required him being given Ukrainian citizenship.

This meant Saakashvili had to give up his passport in Georgia, where he was in power from January 2004 to November 2013.

Saakashvili's relationship with Poroshenko deteriorated and he accused him of corruption. In 2016, he resigned as Odessa region governor and started a new political party.

A year later he led the anti-government protests and was detained by Ukrainian police several times.

After being stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship Saakashvili was deported from Ukraine to Poland and ended up residing in the Netherlands.

Saakashvili told Euronews last year that he wanted to clear his name and return to Georgia.

That came as his ally, Grigol Vashadze, was the frontrunner to win Georgia’s presidential run-off in November 2018.

But Vashadze lost to Salome Zurabishvili.

The 50-year-old’s homecoming would have been controversial after his conviction-in-absentia and six-year jail term for abuse of power.

Saakashvili claimed the trial was politically motivated.