On January 12, Mikheil Saakashvili was deported to Poland from Kiev. The Ukrainian government insists that everything was arranged under the Agreement with EU on readmission of persons signed in 2007 and after Ukrainian courts banned ex-president of Georgia from Ukraine. Saakashvili’s lawyers, in turn, blame Kiev for illegal actions, saying they appealed against the court decisions, consequently, the ban could not have come into effect. According to Supreme Rada member Igor Lutsenko, Saakashvili was deported by plane belonging to Petro Poroshenko’s offshore company.
During the last six months, Saakashvili has been used as an instrument to press Poroshenko and his team and voice demands of Western players, such as introduction of anti-corruption court, abolishment of parliamentary immunity, amendment of the election system, adoption of an impeachment law. All this prompted an information campaign by some western mass media against Poroshenko. Besides Saakashvili, western embassies, NGOs, media figures have joined the campaign to make Poroshenko go on concessions and implement the commitments he undertook earlier. The campaign did not look to “overthrow” Poroshenko, but to “force him to peace.” Actually, western players have not reached a consensus over Poroshenko’s successor yet, but they do realize that another coup d’etat in Ukraine will have irreversible consequences.
Judging from the last news from WEF in Davos, Poroshenko has agreed to launch anti-corruption court and raise gas prices for the population – Ukraine’s president was forced to agree on “a minimum program”. In such conditions, Saakashvili’s services, namely measures to shatter Poroshenko’s positions, have become not so urgent. Saakashvili has found himself in a very delicate situation, since his protest actions are no longer needed (the more so as, they would fade away over time failing to achieve the goals set, unless there were bloody provocations). Neither could he stop them suddenly not to disappoint his supporters.
Therefore, his “evacuation” was a rigged game. Saakashvili was deported from the territory of Ukraine to have an opportunity to speak about “the power of corrupt profiteers” in Ukraine and stay safe. Noteworthy that Saakashvili was deported not to his home country, Georgia, where he would face imprisonment, but to Poland. Besides, Saakashvili is a suspect in a criminal case initiated by Ukraine’s Prosecutor’s Office - he is charged with a coup attempt funded by runaway “young oligarch Sergey Kurchenko” who resides in Russia currently.
Actually, State Frontier Service snatched the key suspect from under the nose of Prosecutor General’s Office. These facts arouse big questions indirectly pointing at arrangements between Saakashvili and Poroshenko’s Administration.
The events of the last six months, namely “Mikhomaidan,” seemed to be in favor of the Kiev elites. Saakashvili was a kind of “false flag” that diverted the existing public discontent from the true problems. It is very strange leading public protests with just political demands (anti-corruption court, liquidation of parliamentary immunity, election reform) and no social or economic ones in a country where 40% of the people have never participated in elections and 80% have never dealt with the judiciary. “Mikhomaidan” caught the attention of mass media and overshadowed anti-social reforms in the medical, pension, education and utilities sectors. Saakashvili has actually discredited the idea of anti-governmental protests. On February 18, Saakashvili’s supporters planned another rally, which will probably become “the final chord.”
Petro Poroshenko has benefited from Saakashvili’s deport. Considering that 2018 is a pre-election year, Poroshenko is trying to show his proxies, who are probably seeking contacts with his potential successors, that he is still the key player in the political field in Ukraine. He is concentrating all possible administrative, law-enforcement and security, financial and media resources, amid dramatically falling approval rating. Saakashvili’s deportation is an alarm for the opposition politicians claiming high-ranking posts in the government after the next cycle of elections. Let’s wait and see if opposition will manage to unite against Poroshenko. It is little probable, considering the ambitions of Ukrainian politicians and their unwillingness to go on concessions.
Will Saakashvili try to penetrate into Ukraine again? Anyway, the Ukrainian government has learned the lessons of September 2017 and is more prepared to prevent such penetration. Besides, Saakasvili will hardly manage to make the people take to the streets again after he failed to achieve any of the goals set during “Mikhomaidan.”
Saakashvili may become an outspoken critic of the Kiev government in the West, but he is not the very person to determine the agenda of Kiev’s relations with EU and NATO, much less the distribution of power in Ukraine.
Denis Gayevsky, Kiev