The FINANCIAL — Georgia’s opposition United National Movement (ENM) party has called for an independent forensic testing of an audio recording in which the Ukrainian and Georgian interior ministers are apparently discussing the possible extradition of Mikheil Saakashvili, a former Georgian president and ex-governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region.
Nika Melia, leader of Saakashvili’s ENM party, said on August 14 that the party would conduct its own testing if Georgian authorities failed to commission an independent testing from a foreign organization, according to RFE/RL’s Georgian Service.
Russian prankster Aleksei Stolyarov, known as Lexus, said on August 13 that he tricked Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Mgebrishvili, introducing himself by phone as his Ukrainian counterpart, Arsen Avakov, and recorded the talk.
In the audio recording, which appeared on August 12 on the Ukrainian news portal Strana.ua, a man with a voice similar to Mgebrishvili’s says that Tbilisi does not want Saakashvili back in Georgia.
He adds that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the Georgian authorities had discussed Saakashvili’s possible extradition before.
Georgia’s Interior Ministry said on August 13 that the recoding was fake.
The reformist, pro-Western president of Georgia from 2004-2013, Saakashvili was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in late July while in the United States. He condemned the move by Poroshenko, calling it politically motivated and coordinated with Georgian authorities.
He lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015 after he took Ukrainian citizenship in order to become governor of the Odesa region.
Saakashvili resigned from the post in November 2016, complaining of official obstruction of anticorruption efforts, accusing Poroshenko of dishonesty, and charging that the government in Kyiv was sabotaging crucial reforms.