Former Georgian president gets Ukrainian citizenship back

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MOSCOW (AP) — Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, has been given his Ukrainian citizenship back by the country's new president.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the comedian who last week took power in Ukraine following his convincing election victory, signed a decree on Tuesday that gave back Saakashvili his Ukrainian citizenship. He had been stripped of it in 2017 by Zelenskiy's predecessor Petro Poroshenko.

Saakashvili had publicly supported Zelenskiy's presidential bid and expressed hope that he would be allowed back once Zelenskiy assumes office.

"Thank you President Zelenskiy! Glory to Ukraine!" the former Georgian president wrote on his Facebook page shortly after the decree was published.

Saakashvili said in an interview with the Georgian TV station Rustavi 2 that he will fly to the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Wednesday — for the first time since 2017.

Saakashvili, who was Georgia's president between 2008 and 2013, got a new political life in Ukraine when Poroshenko appointed him governor of the Odessa region in 2015.

Saakashvili, however, was pushed out of office a year later following a spat with Poroshenko who was unhappy with the pace of reforms in the Black Sea port city of Odessa under his leadership.

Saakashvili, in turn, accused Poroshenko of helping some of Ukraine's richest men keep their foothold in this notoriously corrupt region.

Following his dismissal in 2016, Saakashvili led anti-government protests and criticized the president for failing to stem corruption.

Several months later he was detained and deported to Poland. Most recently, he has been living in the Netherlands as his wife is Dutch.

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