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1ST LEAD Saakashvili revs up crowd at rally in western Ukraine's Chernivtsi By Peter Spinella, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Kiev (dpa) - Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who pushed his way across the Polish border into Ukraine amid a mass brawl over the weekend, revved up a crowd at a rally in the western Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi on Wednesday.

While Saakashvili was outside of the country in July, President Petro Poroshenko stripped him of Ukrainian citizenship. Nevertheless, Saakashvili has vowed to continue his anti-corruption campaign in the country.

Switching between Ukrainian and Russian, which is widely spoken in the former Soviet republic, Saakashvili said: "I came to Ukraine not simply because of citizenship," according to a video posted on Facebook by television channel TSN.

"I returned to Ukraine to, together with you, resolve the main issue: how to get out of the political crisis that currently exists in the country," said Saakashvili, who served as governor of Ukraine‘s prominent Odessa region on the Black Sea from 2015 until he resigned last year amid a falling-out with Poroshenko.

"Let‘s not talk about my citizenship. I have, thank God, lawyers who are helping. They will work on my citizenship," Saakashvili said.

Saakashvili, who has accused Poroshenko of perpetuating entrenched corruption in the country, maintains a tenacious support base.

Hundreds of his supporters gathered at the Polish border on Sunday to back his entry into Ukraine. On Tuesday, Saakashvili appeared in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, near the Polish border. Chernivtsi, about 270 kilometres south of Lviv, is near the borders with Romania and Moldova.

Saakashvili posted on Facebook a video showing Kurt Volker, US special representative to Ukraine, expressing support for Saakashvili‘s "right to pursue his own case within Ukrainian courts."

"I hope that people de-escalate the political drama, focus on it as a legal matter," Volker said.

The US has been a major ally of Ukraine in its struggle with neighbouring Russia, which annexed southern Ukraine‘s Crimea region three years ago in response to Ukraine ousting its pro-Russian president.

"Ukraine really needs to be a strong country, democratically, economically," Volker said, "so that it can withstand the invasion that it has suffered from Russia and emerge as a successful country in the future."

Saakashvili was president of his native Georgia for nearly a decade until 2013, when an opposing party promoting closer ties with Russia took power.

He lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015 and has faced charges of abuse of office. He has denounced the charges as politically motivated.

Saakashvili led Georgia during a brief war with Russia in 2008, a result of which Georgia lost control of two regions that declared themselves independent states.

The conflict had parallels to one currently underway in Ukraine, where two self-declared separatist republics with ties to Russia have been fighting the Ukrainian military.


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