Rotterdam (Netherlands) (AFP) – Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili vowed to continue his fight Wednesday, as he arrived in the Netherlands after being expelled by Ukraine.
Saakashvili, who is married to a Dutch woman, told AFP “we are going to continue the fight,” once again denouncing what he called his “brutal kidnapping” by Ukrainian authorities.
An opposition leader in Ukraine, he was arrested by masked men in a Kiev restaurant on Monday and deported to Poland.
He has been successively stripped of both his Georgian and Ukrainian nationalities, rendering him stateless.
But on Wednesday, he spoke briefly to AFP outside the offices of the immigration authorities in Rotterdam, where his lawyer said he was sorting out his residency permit.
“Right now I am here, and I will be here for the time being,” Saakashvili said when asked if he planned to stay in the Netherlands.
At a press conference in Warsaw on Tuesday, Saakashvili, 50, said he had been blindfolded and rushed first by van, then by helicopter to Kiev international airport.
“I want to stay a Ukrainian politician and fight the corruption. When we have one million (people) in Kiev in the streets, we will go peacefully to Ukraine,” Saakashvili told reporters in English.
A former governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, Saakashvili was once an ally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, but became one of his greatest foes.
Kiev now accuses Saakashvili of trying to stage a coup sponsored by allies of former Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych — a charge he strongly denies.
The ugly falling out saw Saakashvili stripped of his Ukrainian passport.
But authorities in the Netherlands said in December that he can apply for a Dutch passport because of his marriage to a Dutch woman.
In September, Saakashvili defied the Ukrainian authorities and forced his way back into the conflict-riven country across the border from Poland with the help of supporters.
He is additionally wanted by authorities in Georgia on charges of abuse in office — which he also strenuously denies.
Saakashvili is married to Sandra Roelofs from the city of Terneuzen in southwest Netherlands and the couple has two sons.
He said in Warsaw he wanted to visit the Netherlands next “to see my sons,” who like his wife are Dutch citizens.
He then plans to “go on a tour of Europe” to gain political support for his cause.
His lawyer Oscar Hammerstein told AFP Saakashvili “did not know that the Netherlands and Rotterdam are so pretty.”
“He is very happy here, and thinks it’s fantastic,” Hammerstein added.