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Former Georgian president quits Odessa role over Ukraine corruption

Georgia's former president, Mikhail Saakashvili, who became governor of Ukraine's Odessa region, has announced he is resigning in frustration at what he characterised as obstruction in efforts to root out corruption.

Mr Saakashvili was appointed governor of the corruption-riddled Black Sea region in May 2015 by President Petro Poroshenko. But in his resignation announcement in Odessa, he accused Mr Poroshenko of supporting criminal clans in Odessa.

Mr Poroshenko has made integration with the European Union a priority, but endemic corruption throughout the country impedes that policy.

During Mr Saakashvili's 2004-2013 tenure as Georgian president, one of his main achievements was a significant reduction in corruption as well as a crackdown on organised crime. He reformed the Georgian police force, ending its long history of bribe-taking.

His efforts in Odessa, which is Ukraine's main Black Sea port, met less success. He accused local elites of resisting his efforts, especially Odessa city mayor Gennady Tykhanov, a member of the party once headed by Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president who fled the country in 2014 following massive protests.

Last December, a video was made public of Mr Saakashvili lambasting interior minister Arsen Avakov over alleged corruption during a session of the national Reforms Council. Mr Avakov in turn mocked Mr Saakashvili's stutter and then threw a glass of water at him.

In the summer, Mr Saakashvili took the dramatic step of setting up his office in a tent alongside a main highway that is in poor condition despite government promises to pour money into it.

In a video of his resignation announcement posted on his Facebook page, Mr Saakashvili said he would begin "a new step in the fight". He was stripped of his Georgian citizenship after becoming Odessa governor.



From Belfast Telegraph