Former Georgia leader, now a man without a country, slips into Ukraine

Saakashvili's Ukraine gambit a typically headstrong move

Saakashvili's Ukraine gambit a typically headstrong move

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Monday that Ukrainian border guards acted correctly during the unprecedented border crossing by the ex-president of Georgia and former governor of the Odessa region Mikheil Saakashvili.

Saakashvili had said he would present his Ukrainian passport to Ukrainian border officials on September 10, along with other "legal documents", in his attempt to enter the country.

Saakashvili, who studied in Ukraine and speaks fluent Ukrainian, received Ukrainian citizenship in 2015 from Poroshenko when the president made him governor of Odessa.

After having led Georgia for a decade, Saakashvili, who had been criticized for his authoritarian style and especially to the disastrous war with Russian Federation in 2008, had acquired Ukrainian citizenship in 2015, and was appointed governor of the Ukrainian region of Odessa (south). Saakashvili says the decision was politically motivated.

Saakashvili traveled to Lviv after crossing the border, but his whereabouts today are not clear.

"It does not matter who violates the state border - invaders in the East or politicians in the West". He has been known as a pro-Western, pro-NATO political leader in both Georgia and Ukraine.

Avakov added that he prohibited border guards and police officers to use weapon at the cross-point.

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He has brandished his Ukrainian passport on several occasions and also maintains that officials working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva have confirmed his status as "stateless in Ukraine", meaning he has the right to be there to appeal against Poroshenko's decision to withdraw his citizenship.

Saakashvili and his supporters, including former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, had earlier tried to travel to Lviv by train, but it was held up in the Polish city of Przemysl for hours until he got off and traveled by bus to the Medyka-Shehyni border crossing.

But a crowd of supporters, who chanted "Misha, Misha" - a diminutive of his name - forced their way into Ukraine with Saakashvili, who now risks extradition to his native Georgia.

The criminal case was opened on charges of "illegal smuggling of people across the state border of Ukraine", said a statement on the website of the National Police.

The president said Saakashvili should have used Ukrainian courts to challenge the revocation.

Kiev could leave Saakashvili alone, arrest him and possibly extradite him to Georgia. "We see what he did in his own country (Georgia) and that's enough for us". The 49-year-old is now wanted on criminal charges in Georgia, which he says were trumped up for political reasons.

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