Georgia's Saakashvili to force early Ukraine elections
Georgia's pro-Western former president Mikheil Saakashvili on Friday announced plans to create a new opposition movement in Ukraine that aims to topple the current leadership and force early elections.
Saakashvili was a passionate supporter of Ukraine's 2014 pro-EU revolution that ousted the Russian-backed president and set the former Soviet republic on its westward course.
He was rewarded by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for his efforts by being named as governor of the important Black Sea port and resort region of Odessa in May 2015.
But the 48-year-old fluent Ukrainian speaker resigned on Monday in frustration after the president and members of his inner circle allegedly hindered him from fighting corruption.
The mercurial Saakashvili -- a furious foe of Russia -- said "we will create a wide political force, a new platform of new forces whose goal is to remove the current political elite."
"Our goal is to force early parliamentary elections as soon as possible," he told reporters in Kiev.
Ukraine is due to hold its next legislative polls in 2019.
The current parliament is led by the parties of the president and his prime minister. Other chamber members include populists and nationalists who might swing to Saakashvili's side.
The prospect of new political turmoil comes seven months after graft allegations forced Poroshenko to overhaul his government as Ukraine continued to fight a pro-Russian separatist war in its east that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.
That 30-month battle still simmers and the prospects for peace in the European Union's back yard seem distant.
Ukraine's Western allies have long worried about the level of bribe-taking and insider dealing that penetrates the country almost three years since a popular uprising appeared to herald fresh change for one of Europe's poorest states.
Saakashvili made himself into a US darling in Georgia by cleaning up the corrupt police force and setting the Caucasus country on a far more economically transparent road.
But Georgia's devastating defeat to Russia in a brief 2008 war saw Saakashvili's star power dwindle to the point that he was beaten in a 2012 election and was targeted in a series of investigations he viewed as politically-driven.
He left his country and came to Ukraine with a promise to clean up graft-riddled Odessa as he did with ex-Soviet Georgia.
Saakashvili said Monday he was serious about his new plan to oust Poroshenko -- a rich chocolate conglomerate owner -- and set Ukraine on a fresh course.
"I do not intend to negotiate with anyone," Saakashvili said in Russian.
"I will only negotiate with the people of Ukraine."