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Mixed Feelings In Odesa Over Saakashvili

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Old 2nd June 2015, 17:25
Szary Szary is offline
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Mixed Feelings In Odesa Over Saakashvili

What I fail to understand is why President Poroshenko appears so eager to bring in foreigners to govern native Ukrainians?

I mean, a country with the size and diversity of Ukraine surely has many qualified Ukrainians who can run things.

Maybe since Saakashvili was Washington’s former ‘Boy Wonder’, they ordered Poroshenko to give him a job? (joke)

Personally, I think its just two big shot politicians doing what politicians in every country do, and that's back door favors.

And why aren’t any Ukrainians protesting this move?? I know I would. But perhaps they don’t mind being ruled by foreigners… as long as those foreigners are Russians!

Mixed Feelings In Odesa Over Saakashvili As Governor

Mixed Feelings In Odesa Over Saakashvili As Governor

Tuesday, June 02, 2015 Radio Free Europe By Dmytro Shurkhalo, Maria Tymoshchuk and Claire Bigg

To say that Mikheil Saakashvili's appointment as governor of Odesa Oblast took Ukrainians by surprise would be an understatement.

Local residents were stunned to learn on May 30 that Georgia's former president had been selected to run the troubled southern Ukrainian city and its surrounding region.

Some Odesites found the news so bewildering they actually thought it was a prank. "Surely this is just another joke," a local woman told RFE/RL. "Tomorrow they'll say it's the end of the world. Do you seriously believe this?"

Political watchers, however, say Saakashvili had been touted for a government job in Ukraine since late 2014.

"The biggest mystery was that he turned down high-ranking posts," Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko says. "Then he unexpectedly chose an area in which he can show results relatively quickly."

President Petro Poroshenko made the bombshell announcement in a televised event in Odesa, flanked by Saakashvili. "We are united by our love of Odesa and Ukraine," he said, adding that that the new governor would carry out much-needed reforms.

Great Expectations

"In just one year, Odesites should feel that their living standards are higher," he said. He also granted Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship to facilitate his job.

Saakashvili, a longtime friend of Poroshenko, is widely credited with conducting sweeping reforms in his native Georgia.

Poroshenko, who is pursuing a course of European integration away from Russia's orbit, has appointed several non-Ukrainian nationals to government jobs, including U.S.-born Natalia Yaresko as finance minister. Saakashvili, however, is the first ethnically non-Ukrainian to be handed a key post.

While some Odesa residents believe he will breathe new life to Odesa, others doubt he has what it takes to run the strategic port city -- which lies close to the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia -- as Ukraine seeks to stamp out a pro-Russian insurgency further east.

Tensions in the city remain high after clashes between pro- and antigovernment protesters in May 2014 left more than 40 people dead in a blaze.

Wanted In Georgia

Saakashvili is also a deeply polarizing figure. Authorities in Georgia, which he left after his presidential term ended in 2013, accuse him of abuse of power and have demanded his extradition.

"This is a person who faces criminal charges in a country with which we have political relations," says a middle-aged woman in Odesa. "How could a man like that be appointed to this post?"

"I thought he was a good president in Georgia, I liked his economic reforms," says a more optimistic resident. "I think he will bring positive things."

Former Odesa Governor Ihor Palytsia says he was stunned to learn both of Saakashvili's appointment and of his own dismissal. Palytsia, however, has put on a brave face.

"The reforms they want can only be carried out with Kyiv's full support," Palytsia said. "We all understand that the president is forming a team that he trusts. I am persuaded that a person such as Saakashvili will be able to draw the president's attention to the Odesa region."

Palytsia's tenure had yielded few achievements, mainly due to what was widely perceived as Poroshenko's hostility.

The president appears to have been particularly wary of Palytsia's close ties to Ihor Kolomoyskiy, a powerful oligarch recently dismissed as governor of Dnipropetrovsk, a region near separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine.

Kolomoyskiy stepped down in March amid accusations that he was using private armed forces to promote his own interests, in defiance of Poroshenko's orders that all private battalions be integrated with the official armed forces.

Poroshenko's call for "a Ukraine without oligarchs who have armies," made during Saakashvili's televised appointment, was seen as a thinly-veiled jab at Kolomoyskiy.

"A lot here depends on human factors," says Artem Filipenko, an Odesa-based political analyst. "There is hope that Saakashvili will put the president's backing to good use."

Reactions beyond Ukraine have been mixed, too. Russia, which fought a brief war with Georgia under Saakashvili's tenure in 2008, poured scorn on his new job.

"Saakashvili -- head of Odesa region. The Chapiteau show goes on. Sad Ukraine..." Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev tweeted, referring to a popular Russian comic act.
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Old 2nd June 2015, 18:31
Hannia Hannia is offline
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Kremlin trolls have opinions too, or do they? They just keep reemerging w/the same old kremlin lines...
The Georgian Invasion of Ukraine
Russians snarl as Odessa welcomes Putin critic as governor
By Lincoln Mitchell | 06/01/15 11:32am


There are, however, reasons why the appointment of Mr. Saakashvili to head the Odessa region, a place of great import in Ukraine’s struggle against Russia, that is considered by many to be the most corrupt part of Ukraine, could make sense. Mr. Saakashvili, who came to power in 2003-4 amidst peaceful protests followed by a huge electoral victory in what came to be known as Georgia’s Rose Revolution, did extraordinary work in reducing low level corruption in Georgia. He may be best known for firing all of the police in the capital, Tbilisi, and replacing them with new police officers who were not corrupt, but President Saakashvili also dramatically reduced corruption in areas such as education, local government, customs and infrastructure. President Poroschenko is betting that Mr. Saakashvili can now bring some of that anti-corruption magic to Odessa.

It is hoped that the dynamic Mr. Saakashvili will push through reforms and excite citizens around ideas. For example, the Georgian people’s broad support for Europe and NATO is, at least in part, a result of Mr. Saakashvili’s vision and leadership. If Mr. Saakashvili can channel that energy and charisma to build a consensus in Odessa, where opinion about Moscow and Kyiv is currently divided, against Putin and corruption and in favor of democracy and the new Ukraine, both he and President Poroschenko will look smart.

Georgian Invasion of Ukraine Antagonizes Putin and Russia | Observer


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Old 2nd June 2015, 20:19
Szary Szary is offline
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Oh my mistake, I had thought former President Saakashvili was merely another self-centered politician that my government had used and then tossed away.

But per Hannia’s post immediately above, she has made it crystal clear that he is in actual fact a high minded humanitarian extraordinaire. What would I do without her keen insight?

Indeed, upon her explanation I’ll be surprised if he is not nominated for sainthood, or least a Nobel Peace prize like his brother-in-arms President Poroshenko:

U.S. Pressures Nobel Committee to Declare Ukraine's President a Peace Prize Nominee Washington's Blog
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Old 3rd June 2015, 00:27
Hannia Hannia is offline
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The proof is always in the pudding...

Odessa residents have a wait and see attitude, while forum trolls have been given orders to rail and deride

Russian Language Video

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Last edited by Hannia; 3rd June 2015 at 14:14.
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Old 3rd June 2015, 03:01
stepanstas stepanstas is offline
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I don't know what boy wonder you're talking about, Saakashvili is a very smart man. How he'll perform at this job and how people will accept him is another question, but he surely is qualified for the role.

Saakashvili was very active during the Maidan often speaking on CNN and giving reality of whats happening. I think his passion is sincere.
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Old 3rd June 2015, 06:20
Szary Szary is offline
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stepanstas, I agree, he is indeed very talented, that’s why he’s got as far as he has in his career and that’s why I referred to him as a boy wonder, it was meant as a compliment.

But it just seems so very very very odd that the former president of a country would run away to Ukraine and give up his own citizenship to become a governor in a far away country….

I wish him well, and I know you say his passion is sincere, so I hope you are right. And that he is not simply another opportunistic politician…God bless Poland's neighbor Ukraine..
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Old 3rd June 2015, 14:19
Hannia Hannia is offline
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Saakashvili Ukraine's new governor in Odessa splits opinion
David Stern BBC News, Kiev 2 June 2015

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president, is a politician who inspires few neutral emotions.

Discussions over his legacy often descend into two separate camps of those who love "Misha" (as he is commonly referred to) and those who harbour a less-than-generous opinion of him.

The shock announcement on Saturday, that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had appointed him as governor of the southern region of Odessa, elicited a similarly varied response.

Mr Poroshenko's choice of such a divisive, head-strong character was interpreted as a sign of weakness, or a demonstration of strength. A stroke of genius - or a blunder of gargantuan proportions.

Those in the "for" camp tout his numerous and Western-style reforms in the years following Georgia's 2003 Rose Revolution that brought him to power, transforming a country on the verge of complete collapse.

In the "against" camp, many point to his impulsiveness - which may have provided the spark to Georgia's disastrous war with Russia in 2008 - and his heavy-handed methods in dealing with political dissent.

Fragile relationship

Odessa is one of Ukraine's most critical and sensitive regions, one that has been convulsed by extreme political violence in the last year, and which appears to be coming under increasing pressure from pro-Russian separatists.

And the former Georgian leader is also a well-known adversary, to put it lightly, of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lethal divisions persist in Odessa

Saakashvili gives up citizenship for Ukraine

President Poroshenko's relationship with the Russian leader is fragile and often appears about to disintegrate completely, but it nevertheless still exists, and the two men need to keep their their lines of communication open.

The question is whether Mikheil Saakashvili's strident anti-Putinism, now given a very public forum, could disrupt the delicate balance in Ukrainian-Russian affairs.

Both sides' reactions were immediate. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev tweeted a message amounting to "the circus continues," in reaction to the Georgian's appointment.

Mr Saakashvili shot back, describing the message as "hysterical."

Mr Poroshenko (left) made the announcement at an event in Odessa, with Mr Saakashvili standing beside him

Most importantly, he has been tasked to reform what some say is Ukraine's most corrupt region, and rein in the extensive influence there of the country's richest men - the so-called "oligarchs".

"He (and whatever team he appoints around him) will have several difficult battles ahead - the most obvious being with the notoriously corrupt customs at Yuzhny, Illichivsk and Odessa ports," said Nikolai Holmov, who writes a blog on Odessa.

"By extension, that will also bring him head to head with organised crime and the Odessa mafia, as well as some other nefarious vested interests within the ports," he added.

'Running out of options'

No-one questions Mr Saakashvili's reputation as a reformer. The question is whether he can clean out the high level of graft, given that he is a complete political outsider with no grassroots structure of support to turn to.

"It shows how empty Petro Poroshenko's bench is, how little he trusts Ukrainians, and how he's running out of options," said one Western analyst, who asked not to be identified, because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The militarily important port of Odessa has become notorious for corruption

On the other hand, his lack of political connections - and therefore obligations - could be a strong point.

Brian Mefford, a political analyst who keeps a blog on Ukrainian politics, wrote recently that President Poroshenko had killed two birds with one stone with the appointment: he had replaced the previous governor, widely seen as close to Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, without shifting "the balance of power amongst competing business interests in the region", as a locally-chosen candidate would have done.

"In appointing Saakashvili as Odessa governor, it would appear that Poroshenko has assigned a strong leader to govern a key region under pressure by the Russians," he wrote.

Audacious move

The other looming question, of course, is why Mr Saakashvili, a former world leader, would accept a position as a provincial governor, especially as he had already turned down a more senior post as a Ukrainian deputy prime minister.

Making this even more confusing is the fact that in accepting the Odessa position, he gave up his Georgian citizenship, which was the main reason he originally gave for turning down the other post.

Mr Saakashvili said the situations in Georgia and Odessa were closely connected.

"If Odessa ever falls, God forbid, then Georgia might be wiped out from the map," he told the BBC. "That's so obvious, if you look carefully at the geo-politics of the region."

One thing most seem to agree on is that this was an unquestionably audacious move by President Poroshenko.

Mr Saakashvili himself commended the Ukrainian president's boldness.

"I think the president gets it," he said. "My appointment shows that he is prone to very unusual, very radical decisions that took many people by surprise."
Saakashvili Ukraine's new governor in Odessa splits opinion - BBC News

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