What You Need To Know:
✓ Mikheil Saakashvili's appointment very polarizing in Odessa;
✓ Appointment will irritate Russia but also may harm relations with Georgia, who want to question Saakashvili on corruption allegations;
✓ Main impetus to appoint someone with no personal interests in region as a 'pilot project'.
“It’s definitely quite controversial and the opinions here are very polarized,” Hanna Shelest, expert in international and regional security based in Odessa said of the appointment of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as Governor of the Odessa region.
One part of the city welcomes him with open arms and is convinced that he will fight corruption and develop the city. But the other part of the city is very cautious and is worried that this could be the beginning of a new war, Shelest told Hromadske
There has always been competition for control of Odessa, explained Shelest, the situation has never been as simple as it was in Dnipropetrovsk or Donetsk which were ruled by one oligarch. According to her, Saakashvili will be seen as an outsider and it might be very difficult for him to manoeuvre between all the different interests in the region.
Shelest further told Hromadske that the appointment will definitely irritate the Kremlin given Saakashvili’s relations with Russia but it might also harm Ukraine’s relations with Georgia, where Saakashvili is wanted to questioning over corruption.
However, according to Shelest, the main idea was to appoint a person who did not have any personal interests in the region as something of a pilot project – to show that positive change is happening – rather than to irritate the Kremlin.
Hromadske International's Nataliya Gumenyuk and Ian Bateson spoke with Hanna Shelest via Skype on May 31, 2015.