Former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili enters Ukraine to challenge country's president
Mikheil Saakashvili is attempting a comeback.
The former president of Georgia crossed into Ukraine from Poland on Sunday, backed by hundreds of supporters.
I came back to protect my rights in the court and to pursue my political activities.- Mikheil Saakashvili
Saakashvili spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off from Lviv, Ukraine. Here is part of their conversation.
Mr. Saaakashvili, what are you attempting to do by entering Ukraine?
I entered Ukraine as a Ukrainian citizen, even if President Petro Poroshenko deprived me, with his decree of nationality — in violation of the Ukrainian constitution, in violation of international law, in a clear intent to get rid of a political opponent. But I still have my permanent home in Ukraine. I have a political party, which I lead, in Ukraine. I have lots of my supporters in Ukraine, thousands of whom came to the border to greet me. And so I came back to protect my rights in the court and to pursue my political activities.
"I don't think that Ukraine needs any upheavals now. I believe that Ukraine has enough trouble without that." -Mikheil Saaakashvili
Can you describe the scene at the border when you crossed into Ukraine?
OK, but they're saying you entered illegally. And even what you've described would constitute an illegal entry. And they also say that about 16 border guards and national guardsmen were injured in scuffles with your supporters.
But you are still stateless, right? You've been stripped of your citizenship.
Yes, because President Poroshenko did it in five minutes — secret procedure, without any prior notification, without any due process, without any hearings. And I think all these corrupt officials tried to get rid of me because they are scared of me talking about their corruption.
At the same time, you are wanted in your former country of Georgia on charges of corruption. So you're accusing Mr. Poroshenko of enabling corruption —
People may recall back in 2003 when you stormed the Georgian parliament, ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze — that was the "Rose Revolution." I'm wondering, are you attempting something similar now in Ukraine?
What coup are you talking about? Bizarre. We will oppose any coup, or any attempt to change Ukrainian constitutional order.- Mikheil Saakashvili
Let's just leave President Putin aside. We're talking about President Poroshenko. Is this a coup attempt?
Look, I crossed the border together with legitimate members of Ukrainian parliament. They don't have weapons and they don't have military guns. What coup are you talking about? Bizarre. We will oppose any coup or any attempt to change Ukrainian constitutional order.
He might try to arrest me. But one thing that he should remember always: Ukrainian people are not Russians. Ukrainians are extremely free loving, very fair people who are intolerant of injustice. If ever Poroshenko tries to do something like that, I guarantee you it will be the end of his rule in this country.
Are you going to challenge President Poroshenko for the presidency?
I'm certainly challenging many of his methods, but I don't think he's my personal adversary. I'm not willing to be president of Ukraine. But, certainly, I'll do my best together with other political leaders to change the entire political system and to change the political class here.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Mikheil Saakashvili.