Ukraine: Georgia’s Saakashvili Quits Odesa Job, Citing Corruption

Published: 08 November 2016

saakashviliSaakashvili was appointed governor of the Odesa region in 2015 (Photo: Mstyslav Chernov CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Chris Benevento

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili resigned as governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region on Monday, citing corruption in the central government as the main reason for his departure.

In a blistering speech that read more like an announcement of a run for office, Saakashvili accused officials of sabotaging his anti-corruption reforms and making it impossible for him to enact real change. Saakashvili will continue to serve as governor until his resignation is formally ratified by the cabinet and approved by President Petro Poroshenko.

The governor vowed that this was not the end of his fight and that he would go as far as necessary to "rid Ukraine of this smear of dirty corruption, which capitalizes on the blood of [Ukraine’s] soldiers and on the victims of the Maidan [and] betrayed the idea of the [2014] Ukrainian revolution."

Standing before Odesa’s unfinished "open customs area," a Saakashvili project aimed at creating a graft-free customs terminal in the city, he accused the central government of stealing the money required to complete the refurbishment. The terminal was to have been completed last May.

Some Ukrainian analysts believe the resignation to be a sign that Saakashvili intends to ignite his own political movement in Ukraine. He has not confirmed this.

Saakashvili’s resignation comes after weeks of charged rhetoric accusing the Poroshenko government of deep corruption. Saakashvili said that the results of October’s International Monetary Fund-mandated declaration of assets for politicians was the final straw, pointing to the documented millions in assets held by government ministers, including Poroshenko.

Saakashvili was appointed governor of the Odesa region in May of 2015 and granted Ukrainian citizenship in the same month. In accepting Ukrainian citizenship, he renounced his right to citizenship in Georgia, where he faces certain arrest should he return due to pending charges of abuse of power during his presidency. His Georgian political party, the United National Movement, suffered significant losses in that country’s October elections.

Saakashvili’s resignation was preceded on Monday by that of police chief of the Odesa region and fellow Georgian Giorgi Lortkipanidze, according to Saakashvili’s Facebook page.