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The FT Tries to Skate Over an All Out War in Ukraine Cabinet

This is a pretty decent article about Saak in the FT, but it completely misrepresents the extreme craziness of the event it describes in the lead.

If you are one of the few, super-naive people out there that still think the mainstream media are giving you an acccurate picture of what is really going on, then just watch this video with full transcript of what actually happened at the meeting, and judge for yourself. 

<figcaption>Saakashvili goes full Rambo, not that you would ever guess by reading the FT</figcaption>
Saakashvili goes full Rambo, not that you would ever guess by reading the FT

This article takes a total meltdown of Poroshenko's cabinet, and twists it into a puff piece on Mr. Saakashvili.  

Who neutered Mr. Olearchyk?

Mikheil Saakashvili tends to provoke strong reactions. Earlier this week Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, hurled a glass of water at Mr Saakashvili, accused him of being a thief and ordered him to: “Get the hell out of my country!”

At the same high-level meeting in Kiev, Arseniy Yatseniuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, blasted the former Georgia president, who this year became a regional governor in Ukraine, as “a clown” who was brought to the country to “do a job, not to engage in political trickery”.
The scene was captured in a widely circulated video that has confirmed the circus-like reputation of Ukraine’s politics. It has also highlighted how the contentious Mr Saakashvili, through increasingly outspoken accusations of top-level corruption, is emerging both as a player on Ukraine’s national political stage and a significant irritant to the government.

Some Ukrainians hail Mr Saakashvili — appointed governor of the Black Sea port region of Odessa in spring — as a “bulldozer” outsider who rammed through reforms in his native Georgia. They see him as perhaps the only figure capable of breaking the grip of Ukraine’s oligarchs, vested interests and endemic corruption.

“He acts swiftly, decisively, directly, and this does not appeal to many in the establishment,” said Andriy Chernikov, a civic activist pushing for improvements to Ukraine’s notoriously bad roads.

Others see the Georgian as too hot-headed to be trusted with a prominent role in Ukraine, still suffering from a deep recession and a smouldering separatist conflict in the east.

Mr Saakashvili faces arrest if he returns to Georgia, on corruption charges he claims were trumped up by political rivals. Georgian officials stripped him of his citizenship this month after he accepted a Ukrainian passport on taking the Odessa job.

But in Ukraine, amid discontent over plunging living standards and the perceived slow pace of reform two years after the protests that ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, one recent poll showed him to be the most popular politician. His approval rating topped 40 per cent — twice current president Petro Poroshenko’s rating and far above Mr Yatseniuk’s near-zero number.

“We have a shadow government and oligarchy that runs Ukraine like its personal joint stock company,” the told the FT in a recent interview, displaying the frank talk that is his trademark. “The system suits all of them. Don’t take them fighting each other at face value. Behind closed doors they continue to make deals.”

Mr Saakashvili played down speculation that he might take over as Ukraine’s prime minister. His outspoken approach, he said, had upset too many people.

Still, Ukrainians widely respect his two terms as Georgia president after the 2003 “Rose” revolution, when he hauled a quasi-failed state into the top 10 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings.

He is also close to Mr Poroshenko, with whom he studied at a Kiev university in the 1990s, and not shy about calling for a new prime minister as an essential step to secure public backing for radical reforms.

At an impromptu press conference after Monday night’s clash, Mr Saakashvili repeated claims linking Mr Yatseniuk to alleged embezzlement at state companies, including a lucrative state-owned chemical plant in Odessa. The premier denies such accusations.

“I have no doubts, unfortunately, that the prime minister has direct involvement in these schemes,” he said. “I won’t let them further rob Ukraine, which I love so passionately.”

On Tuesday, Natalie Jaresko, Ukraine’s respected US-born finance minister, read out a statement denying the ex-Georgian leader’s claims. “I urge everyone not to whip up a storm and split the government or the country,” she added.

Some officials and diplomats fret that giving Mr Saakashvili a senior job in Kiev might provoke retaliation from his arch-enemy, Russian president Vladimir Putin. Mr Putin told a press conference on Thursday that bringing the ex-Georgian leader to Odessa was “spitting in the face of the Ukrainian people”.

Yet some say Mr Saakashvili is helping to cleanse Ukraine’s political establishment. He has been an energetic presence in Odessa so far, sacking local officials and criss-crossing the region by minibus to meet his new constituents and monitor his reform efforts first hand.

Sitting in his adviser’s office in Kiev’s presidential administration, Mr Saakashvili alleged that — through large-scale tax evasion and other scams — vested interests were milking state companies, budget coffers and natural resources. They were stashing their illicit profits offshore.

“How do you break that?” he asked. “Very simple. You make government a real government. You tell the oligarchs their stock is annulled, and do it through prosecutors.”

His formula for stamping out institutionalised corruption is similar to the one he employed in Georgia: Privatise more companies to separate business and government; streamline the bloated bureaucracy to release funds to hire new, better-paid public servants. Public-sector salaries of $200 per month, he says, are an invitation to bribe-taking.

He has pledged to leave public office — and his $260 monthly salary — “within six months” if the government does not boost reforms. While his foes in the administration might appreciate that, Mr Saakashvili seems convinced the people are on his side.

“Ukrainians did miracles. So many died,” he said, referring to the bloody final days of last year’s revolution. “That’s why they understand that the old system cannot continue.”


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