LVIV, Sept. 11 - A day after forcing his way past border guards back into Ukraine, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said he would unite the opposition against his former ally President Petro Poroshenko and planned to campaign for support.
Saakashvili wants to unseat Poroshenko at the next election, accusing the president of reneging on promises to root out corruption and carry out reforms made during the 2014 Maidan protests, which ousted a pro-Kremlin leader.
At present it seems unlikely that Saakashvili, who studied in Ukraine and speaks fluent Ukrainian, will come to power. His Ukrainian citizenship, bestowed by Poroshenko when he made him governor of Odessa in 2015, has been withdrawn, and polls show little support for his party, the Movement of New Forces.
“I am fighting against rampant corruption, against the fact that oligarchs are in full control of Ukraine again, against the fact that Maidan has been betrayed,” Saakashvili said at a press conference in the city of Lviv.
Saakashvili divides opinion. Supporters see him as a fearless crusader against corruption but critics say there is little substance behind his blustery rhetoric.
Back home in Georgia, his time in office was tarnished by what critics said was his monopolizing power and exerting pressure on the judiciary. He was president at the time of a disastrous five-day war with Russia in 2008, a conflict that his critics argued was the result of his own miscalculations.
Saakashvili says he does not covet the presidency himself and wants to promote a new, younger politician to the post.
On Sunday evening Saakashvili and his supporters forced their way past a cordon of border guards to return to Ukraine from Poland.
“It does not matter who violates the state border - invaders in the East or politicians in the West. There always must be legal responsibility,” Poroshenko said in televised
remarks on Monday.
The president said Saakashvili should have used Ukrainian
courts to challenge the revocation.
“Now this is a matter of law enforcement agencies and they have begun to act,” Poroshenko said.
Saakashvili said he would travel to all regions of Ukraine to unite “different political forces around a common theme that we must have a democracy and we should not let oligarchs hold sway.” (rt/ez)