Ukraine refuses to provide refugee status to Saakashvili, accusing him of plotting coup

Ukraine refuses to provide refugee status to Saakashvili, accusing him of plotting coup
Georgian president and ex-governor of the Odesa region Mikheil Saakashvili has not been granted refugee status by Ukraine's State Migration Service
By bne IntelliNews October 25, 2017

Ukraine's State Migration Service has refused to grant refugee status to Georgian president and ex-governor of the Odesa region Mikheil Saakashvili, the agency said in a statement published on October 24.

The move was attributed to the fact that Saakashvili's request had been submitted "in violation" of the country's migration legislation, specifically, Ukraine’s law on refugees and individuals in need of supplementary or interim protection.

In July, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship leaving him stateless. On September 10, Saakashvili and his supporters crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border despite having no valid passport.

According to Ukraine's law enforcement agencies, up to 13 policemen and nine border guards were injured during the incident. On September 11, Poroshenko said in a statement that those who "violate the state border" must face "an absolutely clear legal responsibility".

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told journalists on October 24 that Saakashvili failed to challenge the State Migration Service's move in court, thus, "there are no special circumstances" that could prevent Saakashvili from being deported or extradited [to Georgia]".

Later, Saakashvili told journalists that according to Ukraine's law on the legal status of foreigners and stateless persons, his status in Ukraine is "completely legal." "I am a person who has a permanent place of residence on Ukrainian territory," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. "I use all the rights of a citizen, and I cannot be deported from Ukrainian territory."

"Coup" and failed protest

On October 24, Lutsenko also accused Saakashvili and his supporters of plotting a coup in the country during a protest action near the nation's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.

A week ago, a rally started near the parliament's building in downtown Kyiv. The rally's leaders called for the revocation of lawmakers' immunity from prosecution, the creation of an anti-corruption court and for changes to election legislation.

The rally was initiated by various groups including the New Forces Movement headed by Saakashvili. Others involved were the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party headed by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the Samopomich (Self-Reliance) party led by Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, reformist lawmakers, former Donbas war veterans and far-right nationalists. However, only Saakashvili, a couple of lawmakers and up to 150 of their supporters have remained near the parliament in a tent camp over the past few days.

"The right to peaceful protest does not mean preparation for a violent coup undertaken by a small group of around 150-200 people who proclaimed themselves as the only righteous persons and are demanding that the state do only what they want," Interfax quoted Lutsenko as saying.

He added that Saakashvili and his supported "are being financed from abroad" and asked: "With whom is the financing connected? The investigation already has information and in due time I, with the permission of the investigator, will give evidence of financial support for these rallies," he added.

According to the chief prosecutor, automatic sawed-off weapons are being purchased and arms caches are being set up as part of preparations for the coup.

In particular, Georgian citizens had brought money to finance the protests in Ukraine on private planes, he said. "We also know that these funds were brought to Ukraine on private planes by Georgian citizens who had previously visited Western Europe."