Eminent President Mikhail Saakashvili said he had returned to Georgia on Friday despite his arrest order – setting off a battle of wills with his longtime foe and local kingpin billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
In a grainy, night-time video apparently shot on the black sea-front resort of Batumi, the bling casino resort Mr. Saakashvili helped popularize, the former leader said he wanted “everything” to come back. risked”.
“I really miss this place,” he whispers, smiling and wearing a hooded top. “Today my dream came true.”
Mr Saakashvili said he would travel to the capital, Tbilisi, in time for Saturday’s all-important local elections. He said a vote for the Georgian Dream, the political party of his rival Mr Ivanishvili, was to vote for a “Georgian death penalty”. He called on supporters to join him in “taking back” the country.
“Even if this usury government manages to arrest me, even if they stop me, we should strengthen our army,” he said. “In any case, I will not stop and neither should you.”
The former president announced his intention to return home on 27 September, publishing tickets for an upcoming flight on 2 October. Some thought he would follow such a risky move that on the surface seemed to reflect opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s ultimately disastrous homecoming in Moscow in February.
Officials, who said they had no record of Mr. Saakashvili crossing the border, repeated the threat of sending him to prison. The former leader is involved in four criminal cases and has been found guilty in absentia on two counts: assault and abuse of power. Mr. Saakashvili and his associates say the allegations are politically motivated.
Not far from drama, Western-educated Saakashvili rocked Georgia after seizing power during the Rose Revolution of 2003. In two intense presidencies, he has turned his country to the west, but also to a damaging war with Russia in 2008.
Early Saakashvili had great success in modernizing the relatively backward post-Soviet state, eliminating much of the official corruption at the lowest level. But his party was forced from power in 2012, following a scandal over prison torture, which prompted the larger-than-life politician to declare self-exile abroad.
The heavy life that followed – as a hipster in Brooklyn and as a frustrated change-maker in Ukraine – always suggested that another chapter was in store.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /