Ukrainian police launch case against Saakashvili over illegal border crossing


SHEHYNI, Ukraine (Reuters) - Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili and a crowd of supporters barged past guards to enter Ukraine from the Polish border on Sunday after a prolonged standoff between Saakashvili and the Ukrainian authorities.

On July 26, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko revoked Saakashvili's Ukrainian citizenship over the later's allegedly submitting false information while applying for a passport.

Saakashvili, a disgraced politician, boarded an Intercity train in Poland to travel to Ukraine's Lvov, but the train was delayed "because of a passenger without a right to enter the territory of Ukraine".

On Sunday evening, Saakashvili and his supporters broke through a police cordon at the Shegeni checkpoint at the Polish-Ukrainian border to cross into Ukraine. "We need to overcome the oligarchy". Saakashvili served as Ukraine's Odessa Region Governor but in November 2016 he stepped down and set up his own party and began criticizing the authorities. "There are children here, there are ordinary Ukrainian citizens who want to get home".

The failure to stop Mr Saakashvili from returning was an embarrassment for Kiev and another headache for a leader fighting a Russian-backed insurgency and trying to restart a struggling economy. "A crime was committed instead", he said. "There should be an absolutely unequivocal legal, judicial responsibility". It all looked very humiliating: what kind of state can't protect its border from a bunch of people?

Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia, is campaigning on a strong anti-corruption platform. He added that many Georgians and other nationals died during the Russia-Ukrainian war for the cause of justice and, therefore, he wouldn't allow Poroshenko turn into another Putin. Several border guards were injured in the incident, Ukrainian media reports.

After crossing the border Saakashvili thanked his supporters, saying all of them were heroes.

"I was tremendously impressed", he said.

The former Georgian president, who has vowed to return to Ukraine to challenge the revocation of his Ukrainian citizenship and to reenter politics, now runs the risk of being arrested on the grounds that he illegally entered Ukraine.

Saakashvili had tried to cross the border by train but the train did not leave its station in the Polish town of Przemysl.

Some commentators decried the political stand-off. Georgia, where he faces accusations of abuse of power and misappropriation of property, has sent an extradition request to Ukraine.

Saakashvili's relationship with Poroshenko dates back almost three decades to when they were students at the same university in Kiev and their shared opposition to the Kremlin later brought them together as politicians.