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Saakashvili turns his focus to the West

Alexandra Induchova
February 13, 2018

Ukraine's government has deported former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to Poland. In an interview with DW, he called on Ukrainians to take to the streets in protest, and discussed his plans in Warsaw.

Mikheil Saakashvili in Warsaw
Image: v

DW: How did the Ukrainian state treat you?

Mikheil Saakashvili: As always. It treated me like criminal organization would because a criminal organization wants to demonstrate brutal force, like pulling hair, strangling, tying up arms and threatening people. That is their method, along the lines of, "if we can do this with Saakashvili, wait until you see what we can do to you poor people." This comes from weakness and not wisdom. I think their time is up soon. They are all very weak, confused and feel cornered. They are scratching and biting. All this will end sadly for [President Petro] Poroshenko and his gang. There's nowhere to run. Russia will certainly not welcome them because a gang — the [Ukrainian government's] former one — is already there. No one in the EU is waiting for them. They won't be received in Warsaw like I was. They will be greeted with handcuffs if they even try to come to Warsaw. That is why I think that they will be lashing out indiscriminately in Ukraine to the very end. But there will be fewer and fewer enforcers. They will meet a sad end — in prison, where they belong.

Read more: Mikheil Saakashvili — the Georgian reformist battling Ukraine's president

In autumn you told DW in an interview that Ukraine does not need a new Maidan — the mass 2014 protests in Kyiv that led to the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych. What do you have to say about that now?

Something like the Maidan is not artificial. The rulers themselves and their monstrosity, their lawlessness and boundless corruption are forcing people to take to the streets.

Anti-government protest in Kyiv
Saakashvili's protest movement is calling for the removal of PoroshenkoImage: Reuters/G. Garanich

What steps do you expect from the West?

One should not expect any wonderful steps from the West because the West is not a unified entity. Part of the West wants to abolish sanctions against Russia altogether. Part of the West has had enough of all this — especially Ukraine. But there are also really good people who believe in the ideals of freedom and understand the importance of Ukraine. To get their help, to motivate them, it is necessary to show that Ukraine is the Ukrainian people and not just the oligarchs or Poroshenko. But how can we show it? Only if we take to the streets, not only in Kyiv, but in all regions. When those in power see a million people on the streets of Ukraine; when they see that people will not rest until those in power are thrown out of the offices they have usurped and in which they abuse their power to the detriment of the people, then we will receive more and more support. The current rulers will see all this soon. When the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the EU stopped financing Ukraine, it was a clear sign of their dissatisfaction. But we have to show that there is an alternative. That's the main thing now.

Read more: Ukraine's Poroshenko has a transparency problem in Germany

Will your lawyers take action against your deportation? If so, in which court?

Of course they will. First, in a Ukrainian court — according to Ukrainian law, you have to go through the levels of the court system. And then to the European Court of Justice. But I am absolutely convinced that this will not happen because it will take years, and there will be changes in Ukraine in the coming months.

What can you do for Ukraine in Poland?

I will travel across Europe. The key to solving the problem of corruption in Ukraine lies in European capitals. We need a new Magnitsky list for corrupt Ukrainians (Editor's note: Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in Russian police custody after he accused the Ministry of the Interior of corruption. As a result, the US imposed sanctions and entry bans on officials suspected of being involved.). It must be made clear to them that Western banks will no longer launder their money, that their property will be confiscated and that they are not welcome in the West. This will speed up the changes in Ukraine. We must understand that playing games with corrupt oligarchs can be advantageous for certain financial institutions in the West in the short term. But ultimately, it undermines the credibility of the West in Ukraine. So we have to do something about it.

Anti-government protest in Kyiv
Ukraine's anti-government protests have accused officials of abuse of power and corruptionImage: Reuters/G. Garanich

Your political allies in Ukraine are not exactly well-known personalities. Will support for the protests now wane without you?

It is now time to prove that this was not about support for Saakashvili. I am absolutely convinced that it is only for the good of Ukraine. From this perspective, I see this as another opportunity to change the situation.

Read more: Kyiv risks a divided Ukraine

Where do you live in Warsaw?

In a hotel. I am under the protection of the Polish state. In any case, I feel safe here.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili moved to Ukraine in 2015. President Petro Poroshenko made him governor of the Black Sea region of Odessa. But at the end of 2016, the Ukrainian public prosecutor's office accused Saakashvili of organizing anti-government protests with financial aid from former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014. Saakashvili said that with his political "movement of new forces," he wanted to fundamentally change politics in Ukraine..

Ukraine deports Saakashvili