Ukraine has stripped Mikheil Saakashvili of his citizenship of the country, casting doubt on the future of the former Georgian president who has fallen out with Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s pro-western leader.
Mr Saakashvili, who led Georgia from 2004 to 2013, became a Ukrainian citizen in 2015 after accepting an offer from Mr Poroshenko, a university acquaintance, to help speed up reforms. He became regional governor of the strategically important Black Sea region of Odessa.
Ukraine’s state migration service said on Wednesday that Mr Poroshenko had cancelled Mr Saakashvili’s citizenship because he did not reveal criminal investigations against him in Georgia. Mr Saakashvili was already exiled from his native Georgia and stripped of citizenship there in 2015. He is currently in the US.
Kiev’s decision to remove Mr Saakashvili’s nationality comes a day after Donald Trump, US president, suggested in a tweet that Ukraine had tried to undermine his election campaign last year by backing Hillary Clinton.
In a subsequent Facebook posting, Mr Saakashvili appeared to suggest that Mr Poroshenko had shown a “bias” towards Mrs Clinton.
“I told President Poroshenko long before the election that the probability of Trump’s victory was very high . . . advised him to diligently prepare for work with a Trump administration. Unfortunately, he made a clear bias in one direction,” Mr Saakashvili wrote.
Mr Poroshenko’s relationship with Mr Saakashvili, who was hailed for his reforms as Georgia’s president, has sharply deteriorated in past years.
Last November, Mr Saakashvili resigned from his Odessa governorship, accusing Mr Poroshenko of stalling reform and being too accommodating to Ukraine’s oligarchs. Mr Poroshenko has denied such criticism.
An oligarch with control over media and lucrative confectionery businesses, Mr Poroshenko was elected president in a snap election in 2014. His victory came after protesters ousted the pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovich, prompting Russia to invade Crimea and foment war in eastern regions.
Ukraine’s western backers have generally supported Mr Poroshenko but they complain that the pace of reform has stalled, and question whether his administration has the political will to crack widespread corruption decisively.
In recent months, Mr Saakashvili has worked to forge an alliance of opposition parties, including prominent anti-corruption activists and former investigative journalists turned MPs.
After his citizenship was removed, Mr Saakashvili re-posted a statement via Facebook from his political allies. It read: “Poroshenko is making some grave mistakes on his fear of a new consolidation of political forces and politicians criticising the kleptocratic model of power.”
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