Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who had a brief, unexpected second career as the governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, has lost his Ukrainian citizenship.
On July 26, the Migration Service of Ukraine (MSU) moved to strip Saakashvili of his citizenship for providing false information in official documents, an MSU representative told the TSN.ua news site.
The next day, President Petro Poroshenko deprived the Georgian politician of his citizenship at the recommendation of the Presidential Commission on Citizenship, the presidential administration confirmed to the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper.
Poroshenko’s decision is widely viewed as part of a power struggle with his former ally, who became a vociferous critic of the Ukrainian president.
Saakashvili was elected president of Georgia in 2004 after the so-called Rose Revolution forced the resignation of President Eduard Shevernadze.
During his two terms in office, the young leader made a name for himself as a liberal reformer who declared war on the infamous corruption in his country. Saakashvili’s anti-corruption mission and his hawkish stance on Russia, which invaded northern Georgia in 2008, won him accolades among many Western leaders.
In 2014, Saakashvili became an energetic supporter of Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution. At home, however, the political leadership turned on him. That year, the Georgian authorities opened a criminal case against the former president for “exceeding official powers,” vague charges that many consider political.
In 2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko named the Georgian liberal to head a commission on reform in Ukraine. Several months later, Poroshenko granted Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship and appointed him governor of the Odessa region. Saakashvili promised to fight Odessa’s entrenched corruption.
Saakashvili’s popularity in Ukraine quickly skyrocketed, but his anti-corruption efforts in Odessa met limited success. In November 2016, Saakashvili resigned as governor, alleging that President Poroshenko was supporting corrupt officials in the region.
After his resignation, Saakashvili attempted to form his own political party and planned to run for parliament.
Ironically, the criminal charges launched against Saakashvili in Georgia would eventually become the formal grounds for revoking his Ukrainian citizenship. When filling out official documents, Saakashvili indicated that he was not under investigation in Ukraine or abroad — but he did not mention the Georgian charges, the migration service told TSN.ua.
Pressure from the Georgian authorities may have also played a role. A statement on the State Migration Service website suggests that the authorities considered “materials submitted by the Georgian side” while making their decision.
Additionally, last week, President Poroshenko paid an official visit to Georgia. There, he told journalists that Ukraine had not received an extradition request for Saakashvili, but later clarified that Kyiv had indeed received such a request from Georgia, Ukrainska Pravda reported.
The loss of his Ukrainian passport presumably leaves Saakashvili with no citizenship. When he became governor of the Odessa region, he also renounced his Georgian citizenship to avoid extradition to Georgia.
Rumors that Saakashvili would lose his Ukrainian citizenship are not new. Earlier, Saakashvili said that, if he were stripped of citizenship, he would simply remains in Kyiv as a stateless person. However, Saakashvili is currently in the United States, which could complicate his return to Ukraine.
/Written by Matthew Kupfer