Mikheil Saakashvili

Saakashvili’s Open Letter in the New York Times

მიხეილ სააკაშვილის დაკავება Photo: Reuters

Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili wrote an open letter published today in the New York Times, titled "How I Went From the Governor’s Office to a Jail Cell?"

In the letter Saakashvili talks about how he left Georgia after his presidential term finished in 2013, went to the United States, his returned to Ukraine during the Maidan revolution, when he agreed to be the governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region in 2015 and took Ukrainian citizenship with a goal of rooting out corruption in Odessa, why he unexpectedly challenged President Petro Poroshenko's government and went into opposition in 2016, his arrest and detention this month by Ukrainian Security Services, and his plans now.

In the letter, Saakashvili summarises his position on how he entered into opposition against Poroshenko and the path that led to the situation today:

“Everything was going well, but by late 2016, we found our efforts at implementing reforms were being stymied by the central government,” Saakashvili writes.

“Mr. Poroshenko, an oligarch who had gotten rich under the old system, and his entourage not only stopped helping my team in Odessa and other reformers in the government but also directly started to undermine some of our initial achievements. I believe that this was mostly out of personal interest: More transparency in public institutions was leading to less space for them to make money. Moreover, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau had begun to go after some of the president’s close associates.

In November 2016, I resigned from my post as governor and founded an opposition party. The government tried to stop us from forming it.”

On July 26 2017, Saakashvili was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship by the Ukrainian government while he was abroad. However, it did not stop Saakashvili from being active in politics of Ukraine. “Despite receiving direct threats that I should not return to Ukraine, I managed to come back — officially stateless but more determined than ever,” Saakashvili says.

Saakashvili recounts in the letter his failed arrest in Kyiv on December 5:

“Last week my party, the Movement of New Forces, organized one of the biggest rallies since the Maidan to protest against corruption and the attacks on the anti-corruption bureau. Two days later, my apartment, which is near the Maidan, was searched by special troops who tried to arrest me — without ever showing me any warrant. Passers-by intervened and freed me from the security forces’ minivan. I was arrested again a few days later. I was charged with “aiding and abetting a criminal organization” — associates of the ousted president, Mr. Yanukovych, who had fled to Russia.”

Saakashvili was arrested again, however, on December 12, a court in Ukraine released him.

“[The] local district judge, Larysa Tsokol, despite tremendous pressure to keep me under arrest, set me free. I will now contest the charges against me, and I am confident I will be fully vindicated. Judge Tsokol is just one of the many brave people in Ukraine. They are the country’s hope and its future,” Saakashvili says.

Saakashvili also talks about the future of Ukraine:

“I believe in a great future for Ukraine. As in other countries in Eastern Europe, its success, I believe, lies in the reversal of a trend in which oligarchs, who have learned to manipulate elections, are winning. I hope to live until the not-so-distant day when I will be in a position to share this victory with all Ukrainians and other post-Soviet nations.”

Saakashvili told Ukrainian TV Company 24 in an interview yesterday that he intends to run for Mayor of Odessa.


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