Georgian ex-president ‘dares’ Poroshenko to return his Ukrainian citizenship before runoff

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KIEV, April 8. /TASS/. Ex-President of Georgia and former Governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Region Mikhail Saakashavili has dared incumbent Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko to return his Ukrainian citizenship before the runoff election.

“I dare you to restore law, to return my Ukrainian passport and to let me into Ukraine! If you are not afraid, if you are indeed that brave and have made up your mind to change, then you have an opportunity to do this,” Saakashvili said in a Facebook video address on Monday.

He said he would not be giving Poroshenko 24 hours to do that. “But you still have enough time before the second round of the presidential race under the law and in line with international law. I am waiting for your decision, Pyotr Alexeyevich,” he declared.

Mikhail Saakashvili had served two inconsecutive terms as Georgia’s head of state, from January 2004 to November 2007 and from January 2008 to mid-November 2013. In May 2015, Saakashvili was granted Ukrainian citizenship, which resulted in his Georgian citizenship being terminated by a Georgian presidential decision. He then served as Odessa Regional Governor, but later stepped down. In July 2017, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko stripped him of his Ukrainian citizenship amid a political fallout and under the pretext of Saakashvili knowingly giving false information to obtain citizenship, In February 2018, the Ukrainian authorities expelled him to Poland.

The Ukrainian State Border Service banned Saakashvili from entering the country until 2021. However, he pledged that he would never stop trying to return to Ukraine.

Saakashvili vowed to return to Ukraine on April 1, right after the first round of the presidential election, but then he changed his mind. On March 31, Saakashvili urged the Ukrainian people to vote for comedian Vladimir Zelensky, nominated by the Servant of the People party, who trounced Poroshenko in the first round.

The second round, in which Zelensky and Poroshenko will vie for the presidency, is set for April 21. On Sunday, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission announced the official results of the first round of the presidential election. Vladimir Zelensky won 30.24% of votes, while incumbent Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko came in second with 15.95%.

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