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Does Saakashvili’s Resignation Mean the End for Ukraine’s Georgian Reformers?

Mikheil Saakashvili (yellow tie), then-governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Region, speaks with President Petro Poroshenko (center) in early October, about a month before Saakashvili’s resignation. In his public address announcing his resignation, Saakashvili pilloried Poroshenko, his former benefactor, and compared the billionaire leader to kleptocratic ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. (Photo: Odessa Regional Administration)

With the resignation this week of Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Region, is it time to declare the country’s Georgian experiment a failure?
 
The populist firebrand was only the latest Georgian expatriate to depart from a government post — or fall afoul of the system — amid increasing evidence of Kyiv’s lack of progress in fighting corruption. The Georgian imports had been expected to bolster the country’s reform efforts, armed with post-revolutionary experience in their native country, but the resilience of Ukraine’s rotten bureaucracy has perhaps proven more powerful than expected.
 
“I think everyone was naive,” said Sasha Borovik, a Ukrainian-born German citizen who served as a reformist deputy governor under Saakashvili, of his colleagues. “The reforms were sold to us [by Ukrainian officials] as real.”
 
Saakashvili’s resignation was not exactly a surprise. Practically since his appointment by President Petro Poroshenko in May 2015, he has railed against what he describes as a lack of political will in Kyiv to clean up the system.
 

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Dan Peleschuk is a freelance journalist who covers Ukrainian affairs.

Does Saakashvili’s Resignation Mean the End for Ukraine’s Georgian Reformers?

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