TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia is not rushing to suspend the citizenship of its ex-president, Mikheil Saakashvili. The justice ministry is awaiting an official notice from Ukraine.
The former president, who is now governor of Odessa, received Ukrainian citizenship a few months ago, just before being appointed on the new post.
Some lawyers argued that according to Georgian legislation, his Georgian citizenship will be automatically suspended, as it doesn’t allow dual citizenship, but others said, and authorities confirmed, that the government has to go through the correct procedure to cancel his Georgian citizenship.
Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani said on Thursday that the ministry needs a document from Ukrainian authorities which officially confirms that Saakashvili is in fact a citizen of Ukraine, and only after that will they start the procedure to cancel his Georgian citizenship.
Saakashvili was appointed governor of Odessa on May 31. In several interviews, he has spoken about the possibility of coming back to Georgia and that he doesn’t need citizenship in a country to which he cannot return. The former president is wanted in several criminal cases in his home country, and if he returns he will be detained immediately. But outside of Georgia, he is safe; despite attempts by the Georgian government, Interpol never announced an international search for him.
Georgian legislation allows someone who has lost their citizenship to send a new application for dual citizenship. Such an application needs to be approved by the president.
When Bidzina Ivanishvili went into politics in 2011, with French, Russian and Georgian citizenship, President Saakashvili suspended his Georgian citizenship, on the grounds that the authorities suddenly had discovered that he had received citizenship in another country. But Saakashvili had granted Ivanishvili Georgian citizenship in 2004 for special merits to the country.