Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili condemned his predecessor Mikheil Saakashvili’s decision to opt for losing the Georgian citizenship in favor of the Ukrainian one to take Odessa governor’s post, as an “insult” of the Georgian state and the presidency.
Margvelashvili’s tough-worded criticism, unusual for him, came after Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko appointed on May 30 Saakashvili as new governor of Ukraine’s southwestern region of Odessa.
A day earlier President Poroshenko granted Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship; it means that Georgia’s former president will lose his Georgian citizenship.
“I want to express my strongly negative stance” over Saakashvili’s decision, President Margvelashvili told journalists in Kutaisi, where he attended ceremonies marking the Georgian Police Day.
“The Georgian President should not have given up Georgian citizenship,” Margvelashvili said. “By doing so he insulted our state, the presidency. In my opinion values – such as citizenship – are more important than career. This step by him is incomprehensible for me.”
Before taking Odessa governor’s post, Saakashvili had said for number of times since November, 2014 that he was offered the post of Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, but he had to decline it as he did not want to lose the Georgian citizenship.
If Saakashvili decides to restore his Georgian citizenship, he will have to appeal the Georgian President, who has the right to grant Georgian passport to a foreign citizen. It is not yet clear whether Saakashvili will make such appeal, neither it is clear what will be President Margvelashvili’s decision in the event of such appeal from Saakashvili, who is wanted in Georgia for multiple criminal charges, which the former president denies as politically motivated.
Commenting on Saakashvili’s decision, Georgia’s Defense Minister, Tina Khidasheli, told journalists in Kutaisi on May 31: “Georgia’s former President simply committed yet another act of treason. With this step it became very obvious how ‘loyal’ he is towards his homeland. If anyone still had any doubts now I think everyone has seen very well how ‘loyal’ he is towards his homeland. The citizenship of our country, which is so precious for all, is worth nothing for him.”
A lawmaker from the UNM opposition party, Giorgi Vashadze, who is Saakashvili’s close ally, told Rustavi 2 TV on May 31, that such reaction of the Georgian leadership to former president’s decision is “a bit strange.”
“It shows that they are driven by grudge,” MP Vashadze said and added that Saakashvili decision to take Odessa governor role also “serves Georgian interests.”
Speaking to local authorities in Odessa after taking his new post, Saakashvili said: “We will all together build a new Ukraine. Without a new Ukraine, there will be no Georgia.”