The third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was in office from 2004 to 2013, said he gave up his Georgian citizenship after being announced as the new governor of Odessa.
After being made a citizen of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appointed Saakashvili to the Black Sea port region of Odessa as governor.
Saakashvili, who was known the leader of Georgia’s Rose Revolution in November 2003 which forced former President Eduard Shevardnadze to resign, has promised to fight corruption and organised crime in Odessa.
“There will be no more oligarchs in Ukraine,” President Poroshenko said during his appointment, adding “We will bring new order and discipline to the country, and these are tasks that I put before the newly appointed Odessa governor.”
Saakashvili is known to be a pro-NATO and pro-EU politician who has been a member of President Poroshenko’s Council of International Advisors since February.
Among Saakashvili’s best-known supporters are US Republican Senator John McCain and the European People’s Party.
During his reign as Georgian president, Saakashvili worked to clean-up the country’s out-dated structure and start-up a new system which aimed to take his country out of the Russian trajectory.
In 2008, the Russian Federation supported the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in a war which led to the regions declaring independence from Tbilisi.
The war followed a 2006 referendum in South Ossetia in which 99 percent voted for independence.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev tweeted on his personal account saying Saakashvili’s appointment was like a popular circus game called “chapiteau show.”
On his part, Saakashvili said Medvedev’s tweet was a ‘hysterical’ reaction.
Georgia’s Defense Minister, Tina Khidasheli, also criticised Saakashvili’s change in citizenship as well as his and appointment saying, “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. The citizenship of our country, which is so precious for all, is worth nothing for him.”
Saakashvili has been living in Ukraine since his defeat in Georgia’s October 2013 elections.
Saakashvili, however, told the BBC that a Georgian passport only meant "guaranteed imprisonment" as the Georgian authorities are pursuing criminal charges against him, which he denies, insisting they are politically motivated.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who has held the seat since the country’s former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich was forced to flee pro-EU demonstrations in Kiev in February 2014, stressed that Russia is seeking to reconstitute the Soviet Union.
Poroshenko, who as Ukraine’s first democratically elected President since Yanukovych's exit and has since been pursuing a course of EU integration, said he chose Saakashvili because they share the same desire to fight with corruption and organised crime.
Saakashvili said Odessa is very important to Ukraine and to himself because it is on the frontline against Russian aggression.
"If Odessa ever falls, God forbid, then Georgia might be wiped out from the map," he said.