The long-running feud between erstwhile political allies Mikheil Saakashvili and President Petro Poroshenko escalated this week after the Georgian ex-president, himself accused of embezzling millions of dollars from state coffers, accused the Ukrainian head of state of using his office for personal enrichment.
“I would like to wish Poroshenko success in finding a good lawyer who will protect him when he is tried for corruption, the theft of billions of dollars’ worth of Ukraine’s property, and the fact that he used his authority for personal enrichment, betrayed Ukrainians and, it’s possible, committed state treason,” Saakashvili said, speaking to Ukraine’s NewsOne television channel.
Poroshenko, Saakashvili added, could have become one of the greatest politicians in Ukraine’s history, but instead “traded this opportunity for several billion dollars.”
“He could have been greater than [17th century Ukrainian historical figures Ivan] Mazepa and [Bohdan] Khmelnytsky, he could have become the new Churchill for Europe. I believed in his ambition, but he only has one ambition – to be a shopkeeper at the Bessarabian market,” the Georgian politician added, referring to a popular indoor market in central Kiev.
Saakashvili called Poroshenko’s presidency a time of “many lost years, several million lost people who left the country, and lost opportunities” for Ukraine.
Saakashvili was forced to flee his native Georgia in 2013, where he is wanted on charges of exceeding his constitutional authority, embezzling millions of dollars in budget funds, and other misconduct. Saakashvili became a firm supporter of the February 2014 Maidan coup in Ukraine, and was invited by Poroshenko, with whom he went to university, to serve as the governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region in May 2015. The politician resigned from the post a year and a half later, accusing Poroshenko of enabling corruption in the region and across the country, and announced his intention to create a new party to. Saakashvili was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in July 2017, and deported to Poland in early 2018. He was granted permanent residence in the Netherlands in February 2018 on the grounds that he was ‘reunifying’ with his Dutch wife.