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Stateless Saakashvili in Netherlands

February 15, 2018

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ROTTERDAM (Netherlands): Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili poses in front of the Erasmus Bridge on Wednesday.—AFP
ROTTERDAM (Netherlands): Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili poses in front of the Erasmus Bridge on Wednesday.—AFP

ROTTERDAM: Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili vowed on Wednesday to press on with his fight, as the stateless politician arrived in the Netherlands to join his family after being expelled from Ukraine.

Saakashvili, who is married to a Dutch woman, said “we are going to continue the fight,” once again denouncing what he called Monday’s “brutal kidnapping” by Ukrainian authorities.

In the latest chapter of a high-profile, months-long saga, the opposition leader was arrested by masked men in a Kiev restaurant and swiftly deported to Poland.

He has already been successively stripped of both his Georgian and Ukrainian nationalities, rendering him stateless.

On Wednesday, he spoke briefly outside the offices of the immigration authorities in Rotterdam, where his lawyer said he was sorting out his residency permit.

“Right now I am here, and I will be here for the time being,” Saakashvili, 50, said asked if he was planning to stay in the Netherlands.

At a press conference in Warsaw on Tuesday, Saakashvili said he had been blindfolded and rushed first by van, then by helicopter to Kiev international airport.

“I want to stay a Ukrainian politician and fight the corruption. When we have one million (people) in Kiev in the streets, we will go peacefully to Ukraine,” Saakashvili told reporters.

He added he was counting on help from supporters to return to Ukraine “to fight corruption”.

A former governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, Saakashvili was once an ally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, but became one of his greatest foes.

Kiev now accuses Saakashvili of trying to stage a coup sponsored by allies of former Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych — a charge he strongly denies.

The ugly falling out saw Saakashvili stripped of his Ukrainian passport.

But authorities in the Netherlands said in December that he can apply for a Dutch passport because of his marriage to Dutch citizen, Sandra Roelofs. The couple also has two sons.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2018