Wel­come home, but…

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

On May 29, Mikheil Saakashvil­i flew back to Ukraine, ar­riv­ing at Kyiv’s Bo­ryspil In­ter­na­tional Air­port to a rau­cous wel­come from sup­port­ers. Just a day ear­lier, Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy had re­stored the for­mer Ge­or­gian pres­i­dent and ex-Odesa Oblast gov­er­nor’s Ukrainian cit­i­zen­ship.

As many will re­mem­ber, Ze­len­skiy’s pre­de­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, granted Saakashvil­i cit­i­zen­ship in 2015 to al­low him to push re­forms and bat­tle graft in the coun­try’s highly cor­rupt Odesa Oblast. Roughly two years later, he stripped Saakashvil­i of cit­i­zen­ship af­ter he quit the gov­er­nor’s post and be­came one of Poroshenko’s fiercest crit­ics.

Ze­len­skiy was right to re­in­state Saakashvil­i’s cit­i­zen­ship. Strip­ping the Ge­or­gian-Ukrainian politi­cian of cit­i­zen­ship was un­just and likely il­le­gal, as it left him state­less. More­over, it was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and set a prece­dent that should worry any cit­i­zen of Ukraine.

But this state­ment should not be viewed as an en­dorse­ment of Saakashvil­i as a politi­cian.

Saakashvil­i is a provoca­tive and er­ratic in­di­vid­ual whose be­hav­ior af­ter he lost his cit­i­zen­ship — break­ing through the Ukrainian bor­der, threat­en­ing to jump off a build­ing, wran­gling with law en­force­ment on a roof — dam­aged Ukraine by help­ing turn its politics into an ab­sur­dist spec­ta­cle.

Now, Saakashvil­i says he is not seek­ing gov­ern­ment or po­lit­i­cal of­fice, and only wants to help build Ukraine. We hope he will honor that prom­ise.

Saakashvil­i’s ten­ure as Odesa gov­er­nor was not par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful in terms of fight­ing cor­rup­tion. This demon­strated that, de­spite his anti-cor­rup­tion bona fides, his Ge­or­gian ex­pe­ri­ence could not sim­ply be trans­planted in Ukraine.

Should Saakashvil­i choose to ad­vise other politi­cians on anti-cor­rup­tion and cam­paign­ing, that is his choice. But he should rec­og­nize that he can best con­trib­ute to Ukraine’s de­vel­op­ment as a pri­vate cit­i­zen — not in par­lia­ment, not in a min­istry, not in the lime­light.

At his worst, Saakashvil­i has been a dis­trac­tion from the hard work of re­form­ing Ukraine. He should not al­low him­self to take on that role again.

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