KYIV, May 29 - Mikheil Saakashvili returned to Ukraine on Wednesday, arriving amid a political transition a day after new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reinstated his citizenship in the country, RFE/RL reported.
Saakashvili, the reformist former Georgian president who had a short second career as governor of Ukraine's Odesa region before he was fired and stripped of his citizenship, arrived at Kyiv's Boryspil airport in the early evening on a flight from Poland.
Speaking to reporters and supporters, Saakashvili said he does not plan to take part in Ukraine’s upcoming snap parliamentary elections but wants to join in efforts to reshape the political landscape and bring new faces to power.
"Personally, I will not be going to any election," he said. "But, of course, I will facilitate and assist in every way in changing politicians in Ukraine, purging [the country] of swindlers and people who have plundered Ukraine.
"I haven't come here for revenge, punishment, [or] to destroy someone," he said, adding: "I want to participate in building a new Ukraine jointly with millions of Ukrainians after a historic chance, with a new president, with a new team."
At the airport, Saakashvili was welcomed by a group of supporters who were holding flags from his Movement of New Forces party. There was also a banner adorned with the Ukrainian and Georgian flags that read: “We are friends.”
Saakashvili's arrival comes less than 10 days after Zelenskiy, a comedian and political novice who easily defeated Poroshenko in a runoff vote, was sworn in and announced he was dissolving parliament and scheduling new elections for July 21.
"We cannot let this third chance pass us by," Saakashvili said in the interview, suggesting that Ukraine had a chance to thrive after the Orange Revolution in 2004 and a second chance after the Maidan protests that pushed Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych from power in 2014. "And now [it has] a third [chance] -- a peaceful electoral revolution."
Saakashvili lavishly praised Zelenskiy for restoring his citizenship, calling it a "courageous step by a courageous and worthy president." There has been speculation that Saakashvili might be handed a high post by Zelenskiy or side with him in the elections, but neither of them has commented publicly on that notion. (rfe/ez)