The Cable

Mikheil Saakashvili May Finally Get His Day in Court

But what does entering a country without documents mean for his case?

misha ukraine

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, tossed out plenty of messages during her visit this week to Washington, stressing especially the need for sustained U.S. support for Ukraine’s “fight against Russian aggression.”

But she also had a very clear message for one Mikheil Saakashvili, the now-stateless former president of Georgia and governor of Odessa. Saakashvili was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship this July while out of the country, and then forced his way back into Ukraine, without documents, on Sept. 10.

Misha, as he is known by millions, had previously sworn that he would get his day in court, insisting that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had breached international law by rendering him stateless. Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship when he got a Ukrainian passport, and there was indeed immediate speculation from the international community as to whether Poroshenko and the Ukrainian government had acted illegally.

For Ukrainian authorities, though, the apparently guilty party is Saakashvili himself.

“I hope that everybody understands that he has violated [the] Ukrainian border and he has violated Ukrainian law by passing through the border without going through the border control,” Klympush-Tsintsadze told Foreign Policy. “I would like to see law and the rule of law working in terms of sorting out this case.”

Does that mean kicking him out of the country, or taking him to court?

“I think procedures are there to go [to] court in Ukraine. If he is not satisfied by the result, by the outcome, then he can get to European court on human rights and deal with the issue there.”

Saakashvili’s stateless anabasis comes amidst a war of words between the controversial Georgian and Ukraine’s leaders.

“It is from his home, Ukraine, that Mikheil Saakashvili will continue the fight to regain his citizenship, which was cancelled in July by President Poroshenko, violating both Ukrainian and International law, making him a de facto ‘stateless’ person,” read the statement released by Saakashvili’s team after he returned to Ukraine.

Saakashvili himself took aim at Kiev, provocatively comparing its behavior in his case to the way Russia might handle human rights.

“The fact that so many different opposition leaders came in support yesterday shows that what happened to me goes further than just me, it is about Maidan’s heritage, it is about what direction Ukraine is taking, whether it is the Russian violations of human rights…or the pro- European respectful of the rule of law,” he said in the statement.

Klympush-Tsintsadze said she was “saddened by the fact that former President Saakashvili is not separating his personal agenda from the interest of my country, which I care for.” She also noted that Saakashvili’s lawyers did not appeal to Ukrainian courts to contest his loss of citizenship while he was out of the country.

“He did not choose to go by law. He’s more focusing on the public affairs,” Klympush-Tsintsadze said. “Which he’s very good at.”

Photo credit: YURI DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images

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