Georgia's Saakashvili Gives Up Citizenship

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L) presents former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (C) as new regional governor in the southern-Ukrainian city of Odessa, May 30, 2015. EPA/BGNES

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakavshvili has renounced his Georgian citizenship in favor of that of Ukraine.

This comes amid a dispute between Kiev and Tbilisi over Saakashvili's extradition, demanded by Georgian authorities over accusations he is facing there. Ukraine is so far refusing to hand him over, despite an extradition agreement being in force between the two countries.

"The reality is for me today that the Georgian passport means guaranteed imprisonment for me in Georgia," the BBC quotes him as saying in an interview.

Saakashvili, who served as President between 2009 and 2013, was initially pointed as an advisor to Ukraine's head of state Petro Poroshenko, a decision that sparked diplomatic outrage from Tbilisi.

However, on Sunday he was appointed Governor of Odessa region, just days after the dispute with Georgia was renewed. Along with that he was granted Ukrainian citizenship.

Radio Free Europe said Monday that the move by President Poroshenko had caused "mixed feelings" among Ukrainians and that to say that it took them "by surprise would be an understatement".

While some have praised Saakashvili's pro-Western reforms in Georgia during his nine-year tenure, others point to corruption and abuse of office during most of his two terms which were marked by a strong presidential system.

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