Ukraine Offers Government Posts to Georgia's Ex-President Saakashvili, Other Former Officials
Ukraine thinks it could use a little bit of Misha — that is, ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili — to fix its dyed-in-the-wool corruption problems. And not only Misha. Several former officials from Saakashvili’s 2004-2012 administration also reportedly have been offered important jobs in Ukraine’s post-Maidan government.
Misha told Georgian television on December 1 that he had turned down the offer to be Ukraine’s deputy prime minister since he did not want to give up his Georgian citizenship. (Georgia does not allow multiple citizenships, although has selectively enforced that in the past. Ukrainian citizenship is required to hold a post in the Ukrainian government. )
One of Saakashvili’s former cabinet members, though, may indeed be contemplating a move to Kyiv. On December 2, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted that he had granted Ukrainian citizenship to Aleksandre Kvitashvili, a former Misha-era health minister who had been offered the same position in the Ukrainian government.
Kvitashvili could not be reached by EurasiaNet.org to confirm whether or not he has accepted the post.
Also allegedly on the list of candidates for Ukrainian government posts, according to local media, is ex-Georgian Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, current-location-unknown.
Eka Zghuladze, a deputy interior minister during the 2008 war with Russia, has been invited to become Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, Mustafa Nayyem, the head of the government’s parliamentary faction, said on Facebook.
Nayyem claimed that Zghuladze had told the faction she would like to help overcome pessimism that Ukraine is doomed to be Russia’s corrupt, economically underdeveloped backyard. “‘We have a common enemy. I am not talking about Russia now, I mean our Soviet past that keeps catching up with us,” Nayyem quoted Zhguladze, whom he described as “prim, polite, with sharp, beautiful facial features,” as saying.
Zhguladze's attributed evaluation echoes that of Saakashvili. In Russian-language responses to questions posed in Ukrainian, the ex-Georgian president underlined on Ukraine's TV24 that Georgia and Ukraine's struggles are one; a view many Georgians, whatever their opinion of Saakashvili, share.
Coming on the eve of an expected visit by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili to Kyiv, though, the news of Ukraine’s job-candidates did not go over well with the Georgian government. Both Saakashvili and Adeishvili face criminal charges in Georgia.
“It will be painful to us to see in the Ukrainian government those people who were the authors of a violence-based regime in Georgia,” Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze said in apparent reference to Saakashvili and Adeishvili. (The others do not face charges.) Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Kereselidze said that such moves will not help Georgian-Ukrainian relations in the runup to Gharibashvili’s visit to Kyiv. (The visit's date is not yet known.)
It would indeed be an awkward moment for Gharibashvili if his much-loathed political opponents — particularly Saakashvili — welcomed him into Ukrainian government offices.
But the Ukrainian government is hard-pressed to act decisively to fight near-endemic corruption and poor governance, and one post-Soviet place that it believes has achieved this is Georgia.
Until his recent death, former Georgian Economy Minister Kakha Bendukidze, a Misha-buddy, used to consult the Ukrainian president on economic reforms.
That role, though, stopped short of a cabinet post.
Some teeth, no doubt, now will be gritted in the Kremlin to see two of Russia’s most defiant neighbors teaming up in this latest fashion, but, at this stage, Kyiv probably reckons it has nothing to lose.
**The International Renaissance Foundation, a Kyiv-based organization financed by the Open Society Foundations, confirmed to EurasiaNet.org that it “provided funding for the recruitment of staff for the new government” at “the request of authorised government officials.” It stated that it “only paid for the services of international recruitment agencies and had no part in the selection process.”
EurasiaNet.org is financed under the auspices of the Open Society Foundations’ New York City office.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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