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Saturday 24 February 2018

Stateless ex-leader Mikheil Saakashvili held at station trying to enter Ukraine

Mikheil Saakashvili on a train with his son Nikoloz in Przemysl (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)
Mikheil Saakashvili on a train with his son Nikoloz in Przemysl (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)
Supporters of Mikheil Shaakashvili wait for his arrival at the Krakovets checkpoint on the Ukraine-Poland border (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

The train that former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili wants to take into Ukraine despite the revocation of his citizenship has been held at a station in Poland.

Mr Saakashvili, who later became governor of Ukraine's Odessa region, is in a high-visibility campaign to regain the Ukrainian citizenship he was stripped of this summer.

He boarded the train in Przemysl that was to travel to the Ukrainian city of Lviv after abandoning a plan to cross the border by car.

But an announcement on the train's public address system said it would be held in the station until "a person without the right to enter Ukrainian territory" left.

Mr Saakashvili told journalists on the train that authorities were effectively holding hundreds of passengers hostage.

He said: "Can you imagine what kind of idiots we're dealing with?"

Mr Saakashvili has been stateless since Ukraine's president revoked his citizenship in July. He earlier was stripped of his Georgian passport.

He contends the revocation was illegal and that he wants to challenge it in Ukraine.

For weeks, he had declared plans to try to enter Ukraine at the Krakovets border crossing. Hundreds of his supporters have gathered on the Ukrainian side in anticipation.

But he said he would take the train to Lviv because of concern that "provocateurs" could cause trouble.

Mr Saakashvili was president of his native Georgia in 2004-2013. He earned plaudits for fighting corruption, but sparked animosity for what critics regarded as authoritarian tendencies.

He went into self-exile after leaving the presidency and was appointed to the Ukrainian governorship in 2015. He resigned about 18 months later, complaining of obstruction.

President Petro Poroshenko rescinded his Ukrainian citizenship for reasons that have not been detailed.

Press Association

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