MOSCOW, April 29. /TASS/. Ukraine’s President-Elect Vladimir Zelensky should start protecting human rights with Georgians, namely Mikhail Saakashvili, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters.
"As for freedoms, it would be reasonable to start, say, with Georgians, or former Georgians, rather than with Russians. For instance, it would be fair to restore the Ukrainian citizenship of a person who used to be a Georgian but now calls himself a Ukrainian, I mean Mikhail Saakashvili," Putin said.
The Russian president pointed out that Saakashvili "was illegally deprived of citizenship and deported from the country, so it would be fair to bring him back and restore his rights, as well as the rights of many other Ukrainian nationals who had to leave the country and move abroad in order to escape the current Ukrainian regime’s persecution," he added.
Saakashvili served two terms as Georgia’s president, from January 2004 to November 2007 and from January 2008 to mid-November 2013. In May 2015, Saakashvili was granted Ukrainian citizenship, which resulted in his Georgian citizenship being terminated by the Georgian president’s decision. He then served as Odessa Regional Governor, but eventually stepped down. In July 2017, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko stripped him of his Ukrainian citizenship, and in February 2018, the Ukrainian authorities expelled him to Poland.
The Ukrainian State Border Service banned Saakashvili from entering the country until 2021. However, he said he would never stop trying to return to Ukraine.