By Claire Kalikman
Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili is now a fugitive from the law in two countries, Georgia and Ukraine. He has been the central figure in a series of bizarre and confusing episodes over the course of December 2017. His homeland has called for extradition from Ukraine and has charged him in absentia to three years in prison for attempting to hide evidence about the murder of a Georgian banker. In a separate incident, Ukrainian authorities attempted to take him from his apartment in Kiev to jail, but his supporters freed him from the police car. The reason for the attempted detainment is unclear, but is likely attributable to Saakashvili’s growing criticism of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.
Saakashvili is a tempestuous figure in Slavic politics. He has built and destroyed political careers in two countries, always as an anti-Russia figure.
He served as president of Georgia from 2004-2013. By the time he left office in Georgia, he was deeply unpopular, because of the civil war in 2008, and charges of corruption. He was stripped of his citizenship when he left. After a brief period living as a hipster in Brooklyn, Saakashvili moved to Ukraine, where Poroshenko, then in his favor, granted him the governorship of the Black Sea Odessa region in 2014. That region is notorious for its corruption. He was granted citizenship to Ukraine when he became governor, but the government took that away when he stepped down as governor in 2016.
Saakashvili is a major voice of the anti-Russia movement, which was pleasing to Poroshenko, who took over as president following the ousting of the pro-Russian president of Ukraine in 2013.
Since then, however, the politician has been a growing voice of the opposition to Poroshenko, who took over after the Maidan protests in 2013. The Georgian is now actively calling on his supporters to remove Poroshenko from office.
The former president is now stateless, with citizenship to neither country, and faces charges in both countries. Georgian authorities accuse him of abusing his power in regards to the banker’s murder, and Ukraine has stripped him of his citizenship for making false statements on a form, though the real reason is likely because of his opposition to the president.
The embattled politician is currently not in custody, but must face his charges in two countries.
Claire Kalikman ’21 is in Morse College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.