Saakashvili Says He Crossed Ukrainian Border Legally

Saakashvili Says He Crossed Ukrainian Border Legally

France24 reports that Saakashvili began his train ride into Ukraine Sunday flanked by a number of supporters and controversial political allies, including the anti-Russian former Ukrainian President Yulia Tymoshenko.

The former Georgian president was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in July after falling out with Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, who in 2015 appointed Saakashvili as the governor of the Odessa region.

Around 1,500 supporters marched with the exiled ex-Georgian leader on the Ukrainian side of the border before he hopped into a vehicle bound for the western city of Lviv, where around 500 supporters greeted him on his arrival.

Mr Poroshenko defended his decision to annul Mr Saakashvili's Ukrainian citizenship, noting that no appeal against the move had been lodged in court. The Georgian authorities want him back so he can face charges of abuse of power and corruption, allegations that Saakashvili has dismissed as baseless and politically motivated.

Saakashvili hurriedly left Georgia after his presidential term ended in 2013.

"But instead, he committed a crime - because the state border must not be violated", Poroshenko said.

According to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, 16 border guards and police officers sustained bodily injuries during the incident.

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The return carries risks for Saakashvili, who is stateless.

"They swept us up and carried us into Ukraine", Saakashvili said. Has Krakovets, city-Ukrainian border by which it originally meant to enter Ukraine, several dozens of his supporters had gathered in the hope to welcome her arrival.

Supporters who had gathered on the Ukrainian side rushed forward to greet Saakashvili and the crowd proceeded toward the Ukrainian town of Shehyni on foot.

The stateless Saakashvili had initially meant to travel through the Krakovets border crossing where hundreds of supporters of his Movement of the New Forces party had gathered. "This is a matter of national security", Poroshenko said.

He says Georgia's extradition request was driven by "oligarchs" who fear his presence in Ukraine, where he fought corruption.

Saakashvili's attorneys argue that it is illegal for a nation to strip a citizen of their citizenship rights when this leaves the person stateless. "We hope we can still get there", Saakashvili told reporters at the Medica border crossing.

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