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Ukrainian no more? Saakashvili

July 26, 2017

Rumours abound that Misha Saakashvili has been stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship.  They are probably accurate.

The bureaucratic reasoning being that upon his application, subsequently granted by President Poroshenko in May 2015, Mikhail Saakashvili lied.  In that application rumour has it he declared he was not wanted or under investigation within or without Ukraine – when Georgia was indeed investigating him and wanted him.

Thus Clause 2 of Article 19 of the Law on Citizenship was violated.

Quite why Mr Saakashvili made such an erroneous declaration is unknown, for at the time of application, President Poroshenko would have granted his citizenship regardless of the Georgian investigations had he declared it.

In December 2015, Georgia stripped Mr Saakashvili of his Georgian citizenship.

Times of course change, and Misha Saakashvili rapidly fell in significance in Ukrainian national politics after resigning as Governor of Odessa in November 2016.  His political momentum was lost, short of early elections that could have seen those around him perhaps enter the Verkhovna Rada (albeit not Mr Saakashvili himself who was constitutionally barred from being a parliamentarian until May 2020 (unless directly appointed to the Cabinet of Ministers)).

That The Bankova (President and Presidential Administration) have successfully managed to defeat any notion of forced early elections (unless early upon the President’s time table), leaves the perception that Misha Saakashvili pulled his “independent trigger” too early.  However it is also clear that he was losing interest in the Governor’s role in June 2016 when the blog was chatting to him, and that he was already looking ahead.  He was clearly frustrated at what he perceived to be a lack of support from Kyiv for anything he tried to do in Odessa and had decided that it was necessary to take the fight to Kyiv.  Nevertheless it took until November 2016 for him to eventually resign.

A reader is left to ponder, what citizenship Mr Saakashvili now holds.  Having lost Georgian citizenship in December 2015, and if rumour be true, having now lost Ukrainian citizenship, is he now a stateless person?

Is it even constitutional for Ukraine to strip him of his Ukrainian citizenship and leave him stateless?  How to interpret Article 25?  “A citizen of Ukraine shall not be deprived of citizenship and of the right to change citizenship.”  If he hasn’t changed it (exchanged it, or taken an additional citizenship), can Ukrainian citizenship therefore be stripped (despite the flawed declaration when obtaining it)?

It is perhaps no coincidence that, if true, this occurs now.  To be blunt there is no reason to believe it is false.

During a 3 day trip to Georgia on 19th July, President Poroshenko publicly pretended to have no knowledge that Mr Saakashvili was and had been wanted in Georgia (as if the Georgian Ambassador would have failed to have mentioned it whenever they met in Kyiv).  The writing, during this trip, was clearly on the wall for Misha Saakashvili considering President Poroshenko’s public statements whilst there.  Following such blunt statements/inferences only a dullard could not see what the immediate future held.

Naturally arresting and deporting Misha Saakashvili would be a little too much politically and diplomatically considering it was President Poroshenko who invited Mr Saakashvili to Ukraine and made him a Ukrainian citizen.  Stripping citizenship due to lies on an application was a comfortable political and diplomatic place instead.

Further, to strip citizenship now, when many people are on holiday, enjoying the sun, parliament is closed, and the Kremlin “Guns of August” will probably soon roar with more intensity in eastern Ukraine, societal reaction (if any) will be extremely muted.

Internationally the public political and private diplomatic fallout will also probably be minimal – if any.  There is little that Misha Saakashvili can say or muck-raking he can do that he hasn’t already said either privately to diplomats or publicly to anybody that would listen since his arrival in Ukraine.  It is not as though either supporters or enemies of Ukraine need rely upon Misha Saakashvili to know the details of the corrupt and otherwise nefarious goings on among the Ukrainian elite.  The embassies speak to a lot of people all the time – including this blog.  And a lot of people go and speak privately at the embassies.

That said, some individuals may have some additional concerns.  Recently, Odessa Mayor Trukhanov was asked what his biggest problems were.  The answer was not city budgets, nor effective administration, nor corruption.  His answer was Misha Saakashvili besmirching his name internationally.  That, apparently, was/is his number one problem.

Some will also perceive this move as somewhat politically pointless and/or weakness.  Others will perceive it as vindictiveness and thus an entirely avoidable political own goal.

With regard to domestic politics, it remains to be seen whether the Saakashvili loyalists and party members will continue to ponder partnership with Samopomich and/or the Democratic Alliance, or whether they will now seek to assimilate themselves within those two political parties henceforth.  They may also decide to integrate with the people of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, who may run for President and also create a political party.  There is little reason to think that any Vakarchuk political venture would be any less successful than a Saakashvili political venture – indeed it may well be a little more successful.  (An entry relating to Mr Vakarchuk will be forthcoming when internally matters are a little clearer and structured.)

Thus, if true, questions of timing are fairly self-explanatory.  The question of actually stripping citizenship is perhaps not one of why, but rather why not from a Bankova perspective.  Georgia will be far more on-side, there will be little overt (or perhaps covert) international reaction that Kyiv cannot cope with, and a minor domestic thorn in the side has been removed.

Perhaps the most immediate question to answer is the current whereabouts of Misha Saakashvili.  Rumour has it he is in the US, and it is far more convenient to remove his citizenship while he is outside of Ukraine than if he were within it – so perhaps that’s where he is.  So, if stuck in the US a while, and with a reasonable relationship with the GOP historically, perhaps he could lobby to get a few Ukrainian corruptioneers placed upon the Magnitsky list?  May as well be useful while planning his next move.

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