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    Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gestures as gives a press conference at the headquarters of the opposition in Kiev on December 7, 2013

    Fugitive Georgian Ex-President Offers Kiev Advice on How to Become a Superpower

    © AFP 2017/ VASILY MAXIMOV
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    Ex-Georgian President and former Odessa Region Governor Mikheil Saakashvili has some advice for the EU, saying Brussels owes Kiev a huge debt of gratitude for Ukraine's valiant defense of the continent against Russia. As for Ukraine, Saakashvili predicts that the country will become a "European superpower" in the next 5-15 years.

    Speaking to Ukraine's Radio Vesti on Saturday, Saakashvili, who is wanted on corruption and embezzlement charges in his home country, suggested that the European Union is indebted to Kiev in a big way.

    Commenting on the renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and Donetsk militia (which he intimated to be Russian troops), Saakashvili said that "Ukrainian soldiers have once again demonstrated to the world that they have saved Europe from the continent's most aggressive army, and that they continue to rescue her. In other words, the whole of Europe is indebted to Ukrainians."

    Comparing contemporary Ukraine to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia to the Ottoman Empire, the politician suggested that just like "the Habsburgs saved Europe from the Ottomans, and dictated its terms to all of Europe until they were foolishly entangled in WWI," Ukraine was defending the continent, except against the Russian barbarians.

    Therefore, Saakashvili noted, Kiev "now has the right not only to plead and beg Europe 'not to abandon us'. Instead, it has the right to tell them 'You have to do this, this and this', because the European Union and Europe in general would not survive without Ukraine. Europe has no future without Ukraine."

    The politician noted that "by its economic potential, Ukraine is a powerful European country. We must set our minds on this and in 5-15 years, Ukraine can become a leading player in European politics. And then it will not be a question of whether we will be able to travel to Europe, but for Ukrainians to go there proudly, and not as unskilled migrant laborers." Saakashvili emphasized that he believed "Ukraine is destined to be a European superpower."

    Fleeing his home country in 2013, Saakashvili was appointed governor of Ukraine's Odessa region by President Petro Poroshenko in May 2015. Saakashvili resigned a year and a half later, in November 2016, accusing Poroshenko of enabling corruption, and creating his own political party called Wave shortly thereafter. In December, the party began a fundraising campaign to 'make Ukraine into a superpower'.

    In his Radio Vesti interview, recalling his time as Odessa governor, the politician said that "Odessa was very similar to Georgia," but complained that "the main mafia connections are not from Odessa, but from Kiev. All these protection rackets, contraband flows, and shady schemes come from Kiev," he suggested.

    Talking up his connections with Donald Trump, who came to Georgia in 2011 to discuss investment opportunities, Saakashvili said that even then, the two men discussed Trump's potential for the presidency. "When I told others that he should be taken seriously, this was seen as another crazy remark by Saakashvili. But who's crazy now?"

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    Tags:
    ex-president, radio interview, governor, superpower, criminal charges, corruption, Mikheil Saakashvili, Europe, Ukraine
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