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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Is an unfriendly act by Georgia an interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine?

On April 22, 2020, Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky offered Mikheil Saakashvili the position of Vice Prime Minister. After the appearance of this information, Georgia threatened to recall its Ambassador. However, Saakashvili was not appointed to the government. But on May 7, 2020, Zelensky appointed Saakashvili as the Chairman of the Executive Committee on Reforms. And already on May 8, Georgia recalled its Ambassador to Kyiv, Teymuraz Sarasenidze for consultations due to the appointment of its former President, Mikheil Saakashvili to the post of Chairman of the Executive Committee on Reforms under the President of Ukraine, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, David Zalkaliani told reporters. «This is an accepted practice in diplomatic relations, which indicates the emergence of certain problems in bilateral relations, the consultation with the Ambassador is needed to determine future steps», said Zalkaliani said, quoted by the «Interfax-Ukraine». At the same time, the Minister stressed that despite this decision of the Ukrainian side, Georgia does not consider the severance of diplomatic relations or reconsideration of the strategic partnership.[1]

"Although we have recalled the Ambassador, this does not mean that we will question the diplomatic relations or strategic partnership. We have recalled the Ambassador only to hold consultations on how to protect our relations from adventurers",  Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia said. The temporary recall of the Ambassador (or rather, his summons for consultations with the capital) has become an unprecedented phenomenon in Ukrainian-Georgian relations, which are traditionally considered very good. Such an extremely nervous reaction to the appointment of Mikheil Saakashvili to the low-impact position of Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Reforms Council is even surprising at first glance. Especially when Tbilisi calmly accepted Saakashvili's appointment to the post of head of the Odessa Regional State Administration in 2015. But in 2015, and now, the appointment of the former President of Georgia to the post had a much greater resonance in his historical homeland than in Ukraine.[2]

The head of the Executive Committee on Reforms, former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili said that Russia also opposes his appointment. "It was a matter of principle for Russia. It doesn't matter what the Russian squirt say. For Russia, this was a clear demonstration that Ukraine is an independent state and has full of dignity President of an independent state. I don't want to be a bone of contention. But it is necessary to demonstrate and remind Russia and the international community about this," he said.[3] He added that Zelensky supports the development of relations with Georgia under any government. "In general, I think that everything will be alright between Georgia and Ukraine and there is simply no other alternative to close, friendly relations between our two states," he posted on his Facebook page.

In turn, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky considers the Georgian side's reaction to the former Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili's appointment to the post of the Chairman of the Executive Committee on Reforms to be false. "I think this is a mistake on the Georgian side. I think that after consultations, all parties will understand that in each state, the personnel policy concerns the state and those citizens who live in this state," he said. The head of state also noted that Ukraine will not recall its Ambassador to Georgia for any consultations. He also noted that the appointment of Saakashvili is an internal issue of Ukraine. "Mr. Saakashvili is a citizen of Ukraine, he has a Ukrainian passport, and I am the President of Ukraine, who appointed him Chairman of the Executive Committee on the Reform Council under the President of Ukraine. That's it," Zelensky said.[4]

The editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian portal «Censor.Net», Yury Butusov posted on his page in the social network Facebook: «The status of Vice Prime Minister, which deputies refuse to give to Saakashvili is more significant, but access to the information space is provided perfectly. It is interesting that Zelensky made the decision on the appointment despite a powerful information attack by pro-Russian media in Ukraine and the full power of Russian propaganda. This is an important signal - to appoint a personal enemy of Putin to a position, albeit symbolic. From the point of view of diplomacy, this is a significant move. At the same time, Zelensky admitted that Ukraine considers the sentences of the Georgian courts on Saakashvili invalid».[5]

Therefore, oligarchs and pro-Russian forces in Georgia met interests against Mikheil Saakashvili. And in order to avoid a diplomatic scandal, Georgia recalled the Ambassador. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia reacted to this situation with quite restraint. Pro-Russian forces in Georgia are not only trying to remove a political opponent, but also to play along with Russia, because, as noted earlier, Saakashvili is an enemy of Putin. Therefore, all this performance can be interpreted as political pressure from Georgia and interference in internal affairs, where Ukraine is told who to put in office and who not. Nevertheless, for Ukraine, the appointment of Saakashvili as the Chairman of the Executive Committee on Reforms is a demonstration of the need to review and restart the reforms, which is expected by Ukraine's Western partners.


[1]Грузія відкликала посла з України через призначення Михеїла Саакашвілі:https: //

[2]Друге пришестя Саакашвілі: навіщо Україна пішла на конфлікт зі стратегічним партнером:

[3] Саакашвілі пояснив, чим для Грузії загрожують погані відносини з Україною: буде масовий голод:

[4]Зеленський вважає помилкою реакцію Грузії на призначення Саакашвілі:зеленський-вважає-помилкою-реакцію-грузії-на-призначення-саакашвілі/a-53371840

[5]Назначение Саакашвили: не секретарь, но председатель