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Saakashvili’s Return: Ukrainian Officials React
11 September, 2017
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On the evening of September 10, former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili broke through the Ukrainian border and entered Ukrainian territory — despite being left stateless after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stripped him of his citizenship.

Saakashvili’s supporters — including Ukrainian parliamentarians, former fighters from volunteer military battalions, and backers of his Movement of New Forces political party — broke through a cordon of security forces to pull Saakashvili back into Ukraine.

Photo credit: EFE/VOLODYMYR PETROV

Since Saakashvili’s return, Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies have stated that the people involved in the border crossing have broken the law, and may face criminal charges.

Hromadske has gathered the first official reactions to Saakashvili’s border “breakthrough.”

President Petro Poroshenko

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that Mikheil Saakashvili committed a crime against Ukraine by illegally crossing the border:

“In any law-based state the individual has a right to appeal any normative act in court. [...]  Instead of this, a crime was committed. Because there is a constitutional principle of  the inviolability of the state border, this is an issue of the state’s national security, and I don’t care who violates the state border: [Russian-backed] insurgents in the east or politicos in the west. There should be absolutely clear legal political responsibility [for this].”

But Poroshenko also praised the border service’s restraint in the situation:

“At the same time, I think that our border guards...responded correctly. They did not use their weapons, despite having the right to do so.”

The President also defended the legality of his decision to strip Saakashvili of Ukrainian citizenship for allegedly providing false information when applying for the citizenship. According to the authorities, Saakashvili stated in his citizenship application that he had not faced criminal charges in Ukraine or abroad. He failed to mention the criminal charges he faces for “exceeding official authority” in his native Georgia. Poroshenko stated that the State Migration Service had checked the documents and concluded Saakashvili provided inaccurate information.

Photo credit: EFE/VOLODYMYR PETROV

“The president cannot make any other decision, because it would be criminal negligence if we allowed this to happen without reaction,” Poroshenko said.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman described the actions of Saakashvili and his supporters as an attack on Ukrainian statehood.

“What happened on Sunday at Shehyni [border checkpoint] is not simply a violation of the law. In my opinion, it’s the beginning of another attack by several politicians on Ukrainian statehood,” Groisman wrote on Facebook. “I’m not going to say anything about Mikheil Saakashvili. He has his own goals and motives. I am speaking about those populist politicians who are acting in accordance with the principle that the worse things get, the better it is.”

The Prime Minister called on politicians to “not unleash destruction and chaos.”

“Let’s use our collective efforts to do everything necessary to make Ukraine successful. Today, it is time to fight not for power, but for the state,” he wrote.

General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko

Those who organized Saakashvili’s illegal border crossing will face criminal charges, Ukrainian General Prosecutor Yury Lutsenko wrote on Facebook.

“The law requires bringing those who organized the illegal border crossing, led these actions, or promoted them...to criminal accountability,” he said. Lutsenko also accused Saakashvili’s supporters of “fighting for power” and suggested they are “destroying the state.”

“Anyone who doesn’t agree should try breaking through the Georgian or the British border,” he added.

Lutsenko emphasized that the only way to resolve disagreements about the legality of state actions vis-a-vis a citizen is the court system.

Ukraine’s State Border Service

On the night of Saakashvili’s crossing, State Border Service Spokesman Oleh Slobodyan wrote on Facebook:

“Journalists are asking why the border guards did not use their weapons. I will answer: the border guards received an order not to use weapons or physical force, as [the events on the border] were a ‘peaceful demonstration.’”

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry

According to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, eleven soldiers of the National Guard and five members of the State Border Service were injured during the events on Ukraine’s western border.

The police have opened an investigation into the illegal transfer of people through the state border of Ukraine. According to law enforcement, the people involved in Saakashvili’s border crossing could face from three to seven years in prison.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov suggested that Saakashvili, who is currently in the western city of Lviv, must legalize his stay in Ukraine.

Photo credit: EFE/VOLODYMYR PETROV

“Saakashvili and all those who illegally crossed the border need to immediately choose one of two options: go to the checkpoint at Shehyni and go through the [entry] process or go to an office of the Migration Service,” he wrote in Facebook.

Anton Herashchenko, an advisor to the Interior Ministry, published on Facebook a list of parliamentarians who crossed the border with Saakashvili:

— Yulia Tymoshenko (Chairperson of the Batkivshchyna Party)

— Serhiy Vlasenko (Batkivshchyna member)

— Yury Derevyanko (no party)

— Pavlo Kostenko (Samopomich Party)

— Dmytro Dobrodomov (no party)

Additionally, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the former head of the Ukrainian Security Service, also crossed the border with Saakashvili, Herashchenko wrote.

READ MORE: Borderline Chaos: What’s Behind Ukraine’s Saakashvili Circus