Former governor Mikheil Saakashvili 'forces entry' to Ukraine

Despite risks stateless Saakashvili to attempt Ukraine entry

Saakashvili, who became governor of Ukraine's Odessa region after being Georgia's president from 2004 to 2013, poses a strong challenge to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who once was Saakashvili's patron but then revoked his citizenship in July.

Mr Poroshenko vowed to punish those responsible for Mr Saakashvili's breach of the border, while observers said they feared the ugly political spat would hit Ukraine's global image.

Ukrainian police restrain supporters of former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili (poster on the ground) at the Ukraine-Poland border who see the charismatic leader as someone who could fight corruption.

Saakashvili, a veteran of Georgian politics, emerged in Ukrainian politics as Georgia's president emeritus in 2015, when Poroshenko appointed him governor of Odessa.

After crossing the border Saakashvili thanked his supporters, saying all of them were heroes.

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"They swept us up and carried us into Ukraine", Saakashvili said.

"Instead, a crime was committed", he said of Sunday's events at the border. He gave up his Georgian citizenship when he got the job in Ukraine.

Saakashvili's relationship with Poroshenko dates back almost three decades to when they were students at the same university in Kiev and their shared opposition to the Kremlin later brought them together as politicians.

On Sunday evening Saakashvili and his supporters forced their way past a cordon of border guards to return to Ukraine from Poland.

"This passport is not the plaything of individual oligarchs, who issue it and then retract it, declare it invalid or use it to blackmail you", Saakashvili recently protested, threatening he would return to Ukraine soon, speaking to Der Spiegel.

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He has brandished his Ukrainian passport on several occasions and also maintains that officials working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva have confirmed his status as "stateless in Ukraine", meaning he has the right to be there to appeal against Poroshenko's decision to withdraw his citizenship.

He was initially refused entry on Sunday at the Medyka-Shehyni crossing point on the Polish-Ukrainian border. "This is a matter of national security", Poroshenko said.

Saakashvili said he wanted to return to Ukraine to contest Poroshenko's action stripping him of his citizenship while he was out of the country. I do believe that many in the presidential administration had simply hoped that Saakashvili wouldn't strike back. Georgian authorities are seeking his extradition to face a range of charges of misappropriating property and abuse of office, RFE says.

"We didn't want this country when we stayed on Maidan", he told reporters. The 49-year-old is now wanted on criminal charges in Georgia, which he says were trumped up for political reasons.

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