The former governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, opposition politician Mikheil Saakashvili, told Ukrainian TV Company 24 in an interview that he intends to run for Mayor of Odessa.
“I want to become the Mayor of Odessa. I’m not kidding. I really want to revive Odessa, but that can only happen by changing the rules of the game,” Saakashvili, who was the president of Georgia before becoming Odessa governor, said.
Saakashvili was released from preliminary detention in Kyiv on December 12 after being detained three days earlier by Ukrainian authorities on charges of providing support for a criminal group and covering up crimes.
During the interview Saakashvili commented on his time in pre-trial detention, saying he is “not afraid of bullets or prison.”
“I have enough strength, energy, and resistance. I tried myself in prison. Turns out that I was not afraid even of the worst form of it. The first couple of days were the hardest; then when they told me that I would basically spend the next couple of years here and then a couple of more years [in prison] in Georgia, I was in good shape next day. I have tried myself in many situations and I am not afraid of bullets or prison,” Saakashvili said.
Saakashvili was initially arrested from an apartment building in Kyiv on December 5 by the Security Service of Ukraine, but was pulled from the police car by a mob of supporters. He then called his supporters to a rally outside the parliament demanding the impeachment of his political rival, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Russian President Vladimir Putin commented that Saakashvili’s actions are a “spit in the face” for Georgia and Ukraine.
“What Saakashvili is doing is a spit in the face for the Georgian and Ukrainian people. How do you tolerate that? He was the President of Georgia, now he’s walking on the maidan screaming that he is Ukrainian. Don’t you have Ukrainians? It’s just a misery to watch,” Putin said
News outlet Ukrainskaya Pravda (Украинская правда) reported on December 13 that there was a threat that Russia would assassinate Saakashvili in order to destabilize the situation in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuryi Lutsenko said in an interview that they plan to appeal the decision of the court to free Saakashvili from detention:
“I do not agree with the decision made by the judge in regards to Saakashvili. I cannot imagine in which country can it happen that the individual crosses the border without citizenship,” he said.
Saakashvili forcefully crossed into Ukraine from Poland in September 2017, although he was stripped of both his Ukrainian and Georgian citizenships and is currently a stateless person.
The United National Movement opposition party in Georgia, which Saakashvili led from 2003-2012, today started gathering signatures for a petition demanding that both the Ukrainian and Georgian authorities stop their political persecution of Saakashvili.