The FINANCIAL — Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says Mikheil Saakashvili is wanted on “serious” criminal charges after entering Ukraine illegally on September 10 and sparking a brawl on the border with Poland.
Avakov called the border breach by Saakashvili, Georgia’s former president and the former governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region, “an attack on the state’s basic institutions.”
Avakov said all those responsible should turn themselves in, according to RFE/RL.
A criminal investigation was launched against Saakashvili after he defied Ukrainian authorities and returned to country that had stripped him of citizenship in July.
Speaking in Lviv on September 11, a day after arriving in the western Ukrainian city, Saakashvili said he no longer had a Ukrainian passport, claiming it was “stolen by police” from a bus that had transported him into Ukraine.
“This morning my lawyer delivered to the Ukrainian migration service my application for protection from Ukrainian authorities,” Saakashvili said. “That means I am legally in Ukraine.”
Backed by hundreds of supporters, Saakashvili made his way from Poland into Ukraine on September 10, breaking through a line of Ukrainian border guards.
Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said late on September 10 that charges also would be pursued against the organizers of Saakashvili’s unauthorized entry.
A September 11 statement by police in Lviv, where Saakashvili spent the night, said regional police were investigating “events near the [Medyka]-Shehyni checkpoint along the Ukrainian-Polish border.”
The statement said those found guilty of illegally crossing the border could face up to five years in prison.
Writing on his Facebook page on September 11, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman called the incident an “attack” on Ukraine’s statehood.
“It’s time to fight for the state and not for power,” he said.
Saakashvili claims to have UN recognition as being “stateless” and says he wants to challenge the revocation of his citizenship at a court in Ukraine.
Besides running the risk of being arrested for illegally crossing into Ukraine, Saakashvili also faces possible extradition to Georgia where he is wanted on charges of misappropriating property and abusing his office during his nine years as Georgia’s president. Saakashvili says those charges are politically motivated.
Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015 when he was granted Ukrainian citizenship in order to take up Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s offer to become governor of the Black Sea region of Odesa. Tbilisi does not allow dual citizenship.
Saakashvili resigned from the Odesa governor’s post in November 2016, complaining he had been blocked from carrying out reforms.
In July, Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship amid a falling out of the two former allies.
With reporting by Interfax, AFP, and TASS