Tbilisi is recalling its ambassador from Kiev for consultations, a day after Ukraine elevated Mikhail Saakashvili, the fugitive ex-president of Georgia who faces embezzlement charges at home, to the head of Ukraine’s reform body.
Teimuraz Sharashenidze, Georgia’s envoy to Ukraine, was told to pack and return until further notice, Davit Zalkaliani, the country’s Foreign Minister, told the media this Friday.
The chief diplomat said that “further steps are needed to consult with the ambassador” because, as he put it, “certain problems” had emerged in the relationship between Kiev and Tbilisi.
The demarche, considered a sign of extreme displeasure in diplomatic practice, came after Georgia’s former president, Mikhail Saakashvili, was appointed head of Ukraine’s National Reform Council.
Giving a top government job to “a person convicted and wanted by the Georgian judiciary” raises questions, Foreign Minister Zalkaliani stated.
In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said he hopes the US-educated Saakashvili would “give an impetus” to effect much-needed change, but back at home, law enforcement agencies accuse him of large-scale embezzlement, abuse of power, and corruption.
He fled the country after his term ended in 2013, and the new leadership has, since then, pushed for criminal charges against the fugitive politician.
However, Georgia’s diplomatic demarche won’t be escalated any further, its foreign minister revealed, saying that severing ties between the two “friendly” post-Soviet nations isn’t on the table.
Saakashvili reinvented himself on Ukrainian soil following the 2014, West-inspired Euromaidan coup in Kiev. But his political fortunes in Ukraine have seen ups and downs, from being made (surprisingly) governor of the Odessa region by then-President Petro Poroshenko to becoming a stateless person and a deportee to neighboring Poland.
In Georgia, he remains a highly divisive figure since he seized power on the back of the 2004 revolt in Tbilisi. Supporters hail him for battling corruption and making governance more transparent, but opponents accuse the ex-president of silencing dissent and persecuting rivals.
Saakashvili’s foreign adventures earned him a reputation of being a volatile, impulsive leader. He gained notoriety for briefly deploying Georgian troops to Iraq in the mid-2000s, and giving a green light to the 2008 invasion of the breakaway republic of South Ossetia which triggered a six-day armed conflict, in which Russia responded to Georgia’s attacks on its peacekeepers and local civilians.
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