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November 16, 2016 No.
6681

After Resigning, Saakashvili Promises: 'We Will Win When We Get Rid Of Ukrainian Political Elite - Scum And Profiteers Who Are Absolutely Identical To The Russian Ruling Class'

On November 7, Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who faces arrest should he return there[1] , resigned as governor of Ukraine's Odessa region. Speaking to reporters in Kiev on November 11, Saakashvili explained that his resignation and unwillingness to cooperate with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko were prompted by his inability to push through reforms.[2] It is worth noting that on November 14, Chief of Ukraine's national police force, Khatiya Dekanoidze, also resigned, complaining that Ukrainian politicians continued to interfere in her professional activities.[3] On the same day, the chief of the Odessa Customs Unit Yulia Marushevska announced her resignation while also citing an inability to implement reforms.[4]  

Saakashvili: 'Reforms And [Poroshenko's] Wellbeing Somehow Contradict Each Other'

Commenting on the Ukrainian President, Saakashvili said: "He [Poroshenko] had the chance to use me for genuine reforms in this country, but it turned out that reforms and his wellbeing somehow contradict each other. And I am here because, regardless of his will, I want to use my experience for real reforms and changes in Ukraine, for the benefit of Ukrainian citizens. And he is no longer my boss."[5] He also added: "He is not the one to give me orders. Poroshenko knows me longer than [US president-elect Donald] Trump and he did not want to make use of my experience in order to help Ukraine, therefore, I am going to do what I want."[6]

Saakashvili then announced the launch of a new political group, the Platform of New Forces, and called for early elections "as soon as possible." He also mentioned that he refused Poroshenko's offer to become Ukraine's Prime Minister and to lead the Poroshenko Bloc in parliament several times. He even emphasized stressed that he would meet Poroshenko only when "the legal issue of changing power in Ukraine arises."[7]

 

Saakashvili: 'The Current [Ukrainian Parliament] Comprises Only Profiteers'

Talking about Ukraine's Parliament (Verkhovna Rada), Saakashvili said: "The current Verkhovna Rada comprises only profiteers who bought their seats to keep robbing the Ukrainian people... They should be driven out of there by the people... We will win when we get rid of the Ukrainian political elite - scum and profiteers who are absolutely identical to the Russian ruling class... our authorities can only do one thing - imitate reform, prevaricate, deceive and extort money."[8]

Saakashvili then criticized Poroshenko's allies and lawmakers Ihor Kononenko and Oleksiy Honcharenko, accusing them of corruption. He also accused the deputy head of Ukraine's Security Service, Pavlo Demchyna, and another Poroshenko ally, Oleksandr Hranovsky, of fabricating political cases on the orders of the Presidential Administration.[9]

Saakashvili also lambasted tycoon Ihor Kolomoiksy, accusing him of forging a deal with Poroshenko under which the Kolomoisky-owned media would attack Saakashvili and in return the Ukrainian authorities would not nationalize the tycoon's liquidity-troubled PrivatBank. Saakashvili said: "(Kolomoisky) will be jailed when we come to power."[10]

It is worth noting that Saakashvili is ineligible for election under Ukrainian law, because he did not reside in Ukraine for over five years. However, he would have his supporters elected to Ukraine's parliament.[11]

 


Saakashvili speaking at the press conference in Kiev. (Kyivpost.com, November 11, 2016)

Medvedev: '[Saakashvili] Screwed Up Once Again'

Commenting on Saakashvili's resignation, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated that the political career of the former Odessa governor was over. Medvedev said: "The dismissal of the Odessa Region's governor does not look a very big event, but nevertheless I'll take the liberty of using a plain Russian expression. This 'drifter' screwed up once again. To Ukraine's regret, which had apparently hoped Odessa would start thriving with the advent of such an experienced man. The result is equal to nil. In fact, it is in the red."

Back in 2015, Medvedev criticized Ukrainian government decision to appoint Saakashvili as Odessa's governor with a caustic tweet: "Saakashvili is Head of the Odessa Region. When the circus come to town... Poor Ukraine."[12]


Twitter.com/MedvedevRussiaE, May 30, 2015

The Moscow Times: 'The Former Georgian President Gradually Lost His Allies And Became Mired In Political Struggle'

On November 16, the Moscow Times published an article titled "Saakashvili's Resignation Is a Symbolic Blow to Ukraine's Struggle Against Corruption," in which Saakashvili is described as "a controversial and outspoken figure."[13] The article stressed that soon after being appointed Governor of Odessa in May 2015, Saakashvili "began firing officials, identifying corrupt bureaucrats and thieves, and promising to turn the Black Sea port city into a 'pearl of the world' within a year."

The article then described Saakashvili's political activities in Odessa: "Sure, it was unusual that the former president of another country would lead a region of Ukraine, but everyone knew that Saakashvili, who is famous for his reforms in Georgia, would not stop with Odessa, and would extend his reforms across the whole country. Saakashvili got off to a quick start: he appointed new district heads, launched an administrative services center, streamlined the process for registering a business, eliminated illegal entrance fees at an Odessa beach, and instituted independent checks on Odessa Customs which exposed numerous cases of smuggling.

"He befriended local community activists, hired a decent team, began holding public meetings in the trendy Impact HUB center in town, threw lavish parties for journalists, and routinely railed against the already unpopular government of former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk [who served from February 27, 2014, to April 14, 2016]."

The article also mentioned that the problems between Saakashvili and the Ukrainian government began six months after the former Odessa's governor took office. The article explained: "Mayoral elections in Odessa were slated for October 2015 and Saakashvili's team wanted its own man to win. Approximately one month beforehand, they decided to promote Sasha Borovik, an economist, technocrat, and advisor to Saakashvili, but began his campaign only two weeks before the election and failed to invest it with enthusiasm or resources. They quickly called in experienced Ukrainian political consultants, who managed to make Borovok's name fairly well known to voters in that short period. They were unable, however, to prevail against his main rival for the post - Gennady Trukhanov, a former deputy with the Party of Regions (formerly the party of [former Ukranian president] Viktor Yanukovych) who had access to powerful and corrupt connections. At the same time, the political consultants admitted that Saakashvili's team did not try particularly hard to win. As a result, Borovik lost, the city passed into the hands of the 'old guard,' and Saakashvili's ratings began to plummet. Word had it that he had lost interest in operating at the regional level and was preparing his political forces to participate in national Ukrainian politics. The citizens of Odessa began to forget about their governor."

According to the Moscow Times' article, Saakashvili made little news in recent months and most people found Saakashvili "much less interesting than before." The article stressed: "[Saakashvili] issued fewer statements concerning reforms and the fight against local corruption and more frequently made populist pronouncements about his opponents in the government... The former Georgian president gradually lost his allies and became mired in political struggle. Saakashvili and his circle have repeatedly said that it is impossible to implement reforms in Odessa without getting involved in national politics - and that is true. However, even while speaking about the corruption in the Yatsenyuk government, Saakashvili remained silent about corruption in the administration of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and the scale of that corruption among the members of his inner circle. Poroshenko, a friend of Saakashvili from their university years, himself began to slow reforms in Ukraine and the Odessa region - the same reforms for which he issued a carte blanche when he became president. Over 18 months' time, the window of opportunity available to Saakashvili had shrunk to a fraction of its former size. As a result, the former Georgian president used Facebook to inform his former university friend that they were now political enemies. 'Everyone will have to get used to the fact that I am a Ukrainian politician and that I will achieve victory or suffer defeat not in Georgia, but in Ukraine.'"

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] In 2014, the Georgian authorities placed Saakashvili on a national list of wanted persons, adding that he would be arrested if he returns to Georgia.

On August 2, 2014, Saakashvili was sentenced in absentia to pre-trial detention by the Tbilisi City Court, in relation to several criminal cases, including exceeding official power. The charges related to violent dispersal of an anti-governmental mass protest on November 7, 2007, and a raid and unlawful seizure of Imedi TV. Other charges included embezzlement of 8, 837,000 GEL state funds as a secret source of income for private spending over a five year period between September 2009 and February 2013. At the time, Saakashvili was in the United States, where he was offered a position as an adjunct professor at Tufts University. He left Georgia after his term as president ended in 2013. In an interview with Georgia's Rustavi 2 TV from New York, Saakashvili said: "[Former prime minister of Georgia, eccentric oligarch and Georgian Dream founder  Bidzina] Ivanishvili filed criminal charges against me not to allow me to return to Georgia. [He] is well aware that he could not announce an international wanted operation on me... The European Union and Americans have explained to him that it was not possible... I would like to say to Ivanishvili that this [nonsense] will be judged in history. But the sound majority of our country will decide and find its place for everything. Ultimately, our country will be released from this nonsense and everything will be settled." Agenda.ge, August 15, 2014. In 2015, Saakashvili was appointed governor of Ukraine's Odessa region by his longtime friend and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. In May 2016, Saakashvili announced that he wanted to return to Georgia and participate in the  past October elections, saying he was planning to continue his "struggle both here in Ukraine and at home in Georgia." Georgiatoday.ge, May 16, 2016.  

Before the October elections in Georgia, Saakashvili warned that Ivanishvili would use his wealth (estimated at just under USD 5.5 billion) to rig the results steer Georgia back into Russia's orbit. Saakashvili said: "Ivanishvili has accumulated a lot of wealth in recent years. He has no intention of going anywhere and will not voluntarily step aside. It's the same scenario as with Yanukovych. Ivanishvili will use all of his tricks to remain in power, so we need to be calm and be ready to defend democracy." (Georgiatoday.ge, May 16, 2016) The recent Georgian parliamentary elections resulted in the victory of the Georgian Dream party, which has governed Georgia since 2012. The Dream party gained 115 seats in the legislative body, whereas Saakashvili's party, the United National Movement gained 27 seats.

[2] Interfax.com.ua, November 12, 2016.

[3] Tass.com, November 14, 2016.

[4] Uatoday.tv, November 14, 2016.

[5] Interfax.com.ua, November 12, 2016.

[6] Tass.ru, November 11, 2016.

[7] Interfax.com.ua, November 12, 2016.

[8] Kyivpost.com, November 11, 2016.

[9] Kyivpost.com, November 11, 2016.

[10] Kyivpost.com, November 11, 2016.

[11] Kyivpost.com, November 11, 2016.

[12] Twitter.com/MedvedevRussiaE, May 30, 2015

[13] Themoscowtimes.com, November 14, 2016.