Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fugitive Georgian Ex-President Appointed Governor of Odessa Region

© AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo
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Former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, a fugitive from justice in his home country, has officially been appointed governor of the Odessa region by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, local media has confirmed.
The Ukrainian president arrived in Odessa on Saturday for a working visit along with the new governor. Speaking before reporters, Poroshenko characterized Saakashvili as the "independent, decisive person who changed Tblisi," adding that among the new governor's main tasks will be the 'deoligarchization' of Ukraine. He noted that Saakashvili was "a friend since my student years. I remember him as a strong-willed and determined person, and I have every reason to trust him." Saakashvili officially received his Ukrainian citizenship on Friday. His connection to Ukraine is not entirely tenuous; he had graduated from the Institute of International Relations of the National University of Kiev in 1992, and had briefly served with the Soviet Border Troops at Kiev's Boryspil Airport in 1989-1990. Earlier this year, Poroshenko had appointed him the chairman of Ukraine's International Council on Reforms, a group of foreign advisors ostensibly tasked with helping the country in carrying out its political and economic reforms.
Saakashvili, disgraced in his home country, was forced to flee Georgia in 2013, after the Georgian Prosecutor's Office launched a criminal case against him. The charges leveled against him include abuse of power, misappropriation of funds and over $5 million in embezzlement charges. Georgia has repeatedly asked Ukraine to extradite Saakashvili. The former president is also known for his failed invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia in August, 2008, which coincided with the Beijing Summer Olympics and prompted a decisive military response from Russia. The disastrous conflict prompted Russia's official recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
Saakashvili had vaguely hinted at his imminent appointment on Friday night:

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