Mikheil Saakashvili, the ex-president of Georgia and the former governor of Odessa in Ukraine, accompanied by hundreds of supporters, forced his way into Ukraine through the Polish-Ukrainian border on September 10.
Saakashvili, who was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in late July, announced last week that he would return to Ukraine via Poland on Sunday, to reclaim his citizenship and “lead the [political] movement and bring the job to completion.”
The former Georgian president planned to enter the country midday through the Korczowa-Krakovets crossing point, where his supporters had been gathering from early morning on Sunday amid increased police presence in the area. But the plan was changed in favor of the Medyka-Shehiny border crossing, just 35 kilometers from Saakashvili’s initial route, where he traveled to from the south-eastern Polish city of Przemyśl.
Saakashvili told Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 TV that the change in his plans was due to security considerations, saying there were “hundreds of Titushky” mobilized at the Krakovets crossing point to disrupt his entry into Ukraine.
In Przemyśl, Saakashvili was joined by MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski and a number of Ukrainian politicians, including former Ukrainian Prime Minister and current opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Saryusz-Wolski told the journalists there that he wanted to support Saakashvili “in difficult times,” and that the former president had the right to “question the unlawful decision on his citizenship of Ukraine,” as well as to cross the border.
Mikheil Saakashvili reached the Medyka-Shehiny border crossing by bus, following a failed attempt to get to the other side by train, which was held for an hour at the train station in Przemyśl, allegedly at the request of Ukrainian officials. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry denied the claims, saying it had “nothing to do” with the train timetable.
Saakashvili was allowed entry through the Polish checkpoint, but was met with a line of camuflaged border guards at the Ukrainian side of the crossing point. Saakashvili was briefly stopped there, but forced his way on the other side, helped by his supporters, who arrived to the police cordon from the Ukrainian side. Surrounded by the crowd, Saakashvili marched to the other side of the border amid shouts of “Misha,” and “glory to Ukraine.” He then traveled to Lviv, where he addressed a rally of his supporters.
Ukrainian authorities said the former president entered the country illegally, and that 16 border guards and police officers were injured as a result of confrontation with Saakashvili’s supporters.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov stated that an investigation had been launched involving the “illegal movement of persons across the state border of Ukraine,” an offense punishable by imprisonment for a term of two to five years under the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
The minister also noted Mikheil Saakashvili “and all others, who crossed the border illegally, should either go to the Shehyni checkpoint for border crossing procedures, or at the Migration Service of Ukraine. “All participants of the ‘break-in,’ including MPs, must report to the police to give evidence,” Avakov added.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke on the matter as well, saying “the incident requires no political comments.” “We should comment and will comment (this situation) exclusively in legal terms,” President Poroshenko stated on September 11.
“It does not matter who violates the state border – be it the militants in the east, or the state mongers in the west. There must be an absolutely clear legal responsibility,” the president noted, adding that it should be the law enforcement institutions dealing with the case.
“I hope this man will be equally enthusiastic about breaking into Georgia in due time,” President Poroshenko also quipped.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stripped Mikheil Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship on July 26, less than three years after Saakashvili gave up his Georgian citizenship to serve as the governor of Odessa region in Ukraine.
Saakashvili resigned from the post of the governor in November 2016, after his relations with Poroshenko soured, becoming an opposition leader and creating his own political party - the Movement of New Forces - in early 2017.
The former president is wanted by Georgia on a number of criminal charges, which he denies as politically motivated.