Georgia’s Saakashvili resigns as Ukraine Odessa governor

Former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili steps down claiming Ukraine’s President Poroshenko supports clans.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the media in Odessa.

Updated Nov 9, 2016

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili resigned as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region earlier this week accusing Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko  of corruption.

"I can't stand this, I've had enough. I'm tired of this. And I want to say: nobody in my life has lied so much or so cynically to me," Saakashvili said on Monday, apparently in reference to Poroshenko and the central authorities.

"I have decided to tender my resignation and start a new stage of the fight. I am not giving up."

Saakashvili, was appointed Odessa governor in May 2015 in a surprise move by Poroshenko in order to fight corruption in the key port city and was passionate supporter of Ukraine's 2014 pro-EU revolution that ousted the Russian-backed president.

He has since repeatedly accused the Kiev leadership of lacking a real commitment to reform and his political allies said this had made him a target of political infighting.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, and Mikhail Saakashvili, second left, when he was newly appointed in 2015. (AP Archive)

"In reality, in Odessa region, the president personally supports two clans," he told reporters.

Poroshenko’s office refused to make any comments on the former Georgian leader's remarks and said Saakashvili’s resignation “will be reviewed in an appropriate manner."

When Saakashvili was appointed, he left the country and came to Ukraine with a promise to clean up graft-riddled Odessa as he did with ex-Soviet Georgia in the past.

Fellow Georgian, Davit Sakvarelidze, who was fired from his post as a senior prosecutor for Ukraine in March, said Saakashvili's outspokenness had guaranteed his departure.

"All local clans are mixed together and work as one. It became impossible to act against them. Saakashvili will not leave Ukraine and will be active politically. You'll find out about this soon," Sakvarelidze was quoted as saying by website Gordon.

It was not immediately clear what political future Saakashvili envisions for himself or whether he intends to stay in Ukraine.

Saakashvili is not the only one to resign

In February, Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, a Lithuanian, stepped down, saying vested interests were blocking his ministry's work.

Later, a government shake-up booted US-born Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko and Western-backed Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk out of office. The appointment of Poroshenko ally Volodymyr Groysman as prime minister was seen as a move by the president to consolidate power.

Pro-European lawmaker and activist Serhiy Leshchenko said Saakashvili's resignation illustrated an anti-reformist trend in the country.

"It is part of a broader development happening in Ukraine - an attack on anti-corruption fighters and people who back reforms," he said.

Ukraine's cargo vessels and navy ships are docked in Odessa, Ukraine. (AP Archive)

Others thought Saakashvili's accusations should be taken with a pinch of salt.

"Knowing him, he tends to exaggerate," said Ukraine's former health minister Alexander Kvitashvili, another Georgian who has tendered his resignation citing corruption.

"All of us have resigned at some point here. I don't think it's necessarily helpful when you come out with statements like that. Yes maybe he didn't get the support he needed, but the situation is very complicated and nothing's black-and-white," he told Reuters.

TRTWorld and agencies