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Saakashvili resigns Odessa post in protest

November 7, 2016

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has resigned from his post as governor of a Ukrainian region after 18 months. The controversial pro-West reformer accuses Kyiv of not being serious about tackling corruption.

Georgia's former president Mikheil Saakashvili addressing a gathering.
Image: DW/D. Florin

Saakashvili tendered his resignation as governor of Odessa region on Monday, accusing highly-placed officials in Kyiv of obstructing his attempts at reform. Saakashvili, who is widely credited with cracking down on graft when he was president of Georgia, was appointed Odessa governor in May 2015 by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

But he's since repeatedly accused the Kyiv leadership of lacking a real commitment to reform and backpedaling on a promise to create a tariff-free zone on the Black Sea. He said Monday he had no choice but resign in protest. "We will definitely unite and finish this fight, bringing victory to Ukraine," Saakashvili told reporters. "The fight continues."

Corruption remains a major liability and stumbling block for investment and development in the former Soviet republic. State graft continues to penetrate the country almost three years since the start of a popular uprising that appeared to herald fresh change for one of Europe's poorest and most mismanaged countries.

Saakashvili made himself into a darling of the West in ex-Soviet Georgia by cleaning up the corrupt police force and setting the country on a far more economically transparent road. But his hawkish posturing toward neighboring Russia, which culminated in the break-out out of a brief-but-devastating war in 2008 over a breakaway region, saw Saakashvili's popularity in his native country plummet. He was ousted in a 2012 election and then fled the country after his rivals-turned-leaders opened a series of investigations into his administration. He was stripped of his Georgian citizenship and, fearing arrest, has been unwilling to return. It's unclear what, if any, his future plans are.

Proteste in Georgien Oppositions-Demo Micheil Saakashvili
Mikheil Saakashvili, a pro-West reformer who took power in the Rose Revolution of 2003, was forced out of his native Georgia after prosecutors in a successive administration issued an arrest warrant for abuse of power.Image: DW/A.Oganjanyan

jar/kms (AFP, Reuters)