Central and Eastern Europe

Mikheil Sakashvili’s guide on how to pass the border without a passport

In the midst of shouting in Ukrainian, Russian and Georgian, running journalists and lined up men you could see the one truly happy face of the ex-President of Georgia and former Governor of Odessa, Mikheil Saakashvili, as he and his supporters marched through the Polish-Ukrainian border.

On September 10 2017, Mikheil Saakashvili along with other representatives of the Ukrainian opposition and his family members marched through the Polish-Ukrainian border from Medyka (Poland) to Shehyni (Ukraine). As is known, in July this year, Saakashvili was deprived of his Ukrainian citizenship while being absent from the country, leaving the politician stateless (earlier he had also been stripped of his Georgian passport). Furious with such a decision, the former Governor of Odessa organized a march to reclaim his rights and citizenship. Famous for his relentless fight with corruption back in Georgia, Saakashvili is ready to continue his battle in Ukraine as soon as he restores his political status.

Here is the timeline of the event (Local time):

Before 12:00pm

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Member of European Parliament, Yulia Timoshenko, one of the leaders of the opposition in Ukraine, and Mustafa Nayyem, journalist and activist who urged Ukrainians to gather on Independence Square starting Euromaidan, arrived in Przemyśl to express their solidarity for the third president of Georgia. The politicians had a nice and friendly meeting in one of the town’s cafes. “I am here to show my solidarity with former President of Georgia. He has the full right to return to Ukraine, where he was illegally stripped of his citizenship. And according to EU standards that Ukraine is bound to observe, they should not and cannot refuse to question this decision in a European court,” commented MEP Saryusz-Wolski.

For Yulia Timoshenko the march presented an even deeper meaning. “We are here to save Ukraine from such immoral political actions. Right now, it is important for us, as opposition leaders and European democratic powers, to unite and to stop the new corrupt-dictatorship establishment in Ukraine.”

Saakashvili himself referred to Georgia and his struggles there as well by stating that this march was a good sign for both Ukraine and Georgia: “Even though I am concentrated on Ukraine right now, it doesn’t mean that I have forgotten about Georgia for even second. Do not put your hopes on that. I can see that these countries share the same enemy – Ivanishvili (Bidzina Ivanishvili – the Georgian businessman and former Prime-Minister of Georgia). He is an enemy of Ukraine just as he is an enemy of Georgia. I must and I will ‘take care’ of him and the rest of oligarchs in the world.”

1:00pm

The ex-President changed his plans on crossing the border. Instead of going by bus, he decided to travel by train to Lviv to avoid provocations. “Our plan was clear, we were approaching the border. Many people had gathered to support the freedom of the country and stop the creation of a dictatorship, but were are also so-called Titushkis present and provocation plans, which were announced by various people, including the President`s Administration, Avakov and others. To avoid provocations, we all agreed to cross the border by train,” said Mikheil Saakashvili.

2:00pm – 3:00pm

While waiting for the train together supporters and journalists, the ex-President talked with Georgian reporters about his desire to help Ukraine as well as to return to Georgia. “It is my life goal,” he said.  “You can see the enthusiasm in these people around me, the sense of unity. Nothing can stop these people, the ordinary Ukrainians, who ask me not to delay my arrival.  It should be very inspiring.”

3:00pm

With two hours delay, the train from Poland was about set off to Ukraine with Saakashvili on board. The reason for the delay was due to Ukraine’s resistance to let the train with Saakashvili on board into the country.

5:00pm

After several hours of waiting, realizing that the train wouldn’t leave with him on board after all, Mikheil Saakashvili decided to enter Ukraine by bus at the Medyka crossing.

7:00pm

The third President of Georgia travelled from Przemyśl Railway station to the Polish-Ukrainian border by bus. While he was allowed to pass through the Polish checkpoint, a line of soldiers standing arm-in-arm blocked his way to the Ukrainian checkpoint. One of the law enforcers refused to tell a Georgian reporter the reason why the checkpoint was closed and warned that the area was mined. Previously, Mikheil Saakashvili had mentioned that he would enter Ukraine via an alternative route.

8:00pm

The restless politician refused to accept that the territory was mined and approached the Ukrainian borders where he presented a speech in Ukrainian about the situation: “These guys who we are very proud of, serve the state which produces more than they do. I am a former guard. When I was in the Soviet army in Slovakia and Hungary, even then the area was under the surveillance of cameras. Mining of this zone while there are so many cameras and people is technically impossible. They think that we are idiots, this is nonsense.” He added that many Georgians and other nationals died during the Russia-Ukrainian war for the cause of justice and, therefore, he wouldn’t allow Poroshenko turn into another Putin.

8:30pm

The crowd started to get angry with the Ukrainian border guards. One of the supporters, Ukrainian Supreme Rada deputy, Yuri Derevianko, called the situation “inadequate, the full of hysteria of the government.”

9:00pm

To the cry of “Misha, Misha, Misha,” the army of Saakashvili’s supporters (according to reporters on the ground, most of them were activists of Saakashvili’s party) viciously broke through the live cordon, violating the border, to bring Mikheil Saakashvili into the country while singing Ukrainian anthem. Accompanied by Rada MPs, the former Governor of Odessa, happy and smiling, pushed his way through a line of guards and entered Ukraine. He thanked all of his supporters and announced that it was a great win.

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As for now, the stateless ex-President’s whereabouts are unknown. Ukrainian police have filed criminal charges against him for breaching the border, so he may face possible deportation to Georgia, where he has yet more criminal charges stacked against him. His lawyer said that he’s asked Ukraine’s State Migration Service to block extradition on the grounds that he won’t get a fair trial at home.

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Featured image courtesy of Kaja Puto.

The piece is based on a Live broadcast by Rustavi 2 (Georgian TV)

Bio

Nino Sichinava

Nino is an International Relations student at Lazarski University (Poland) and Coventry University (UK). A contributor for Political Critique and European Alternatives.