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CONFIRMED: Mikheil Saakashvili resigns as Odessa’s Governor, positions himself as leader of opposition to Kiev’s government

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s resignation as Governor of Odessa in Ukraine brings an unhappy experiment to an end.

Alexander Mercouris

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News of former Georgian Mikheil Saakashvili’s resignation today from his position as Governor of Odessa in Ukraine brings to an end a bizarre and unhappy experiment, whose failure became obvious long ago.

Saakashvili was appointed Governor of Odessa by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in May 2015. 

The purported intention behind Saakashvili’s appointment was to bring in a supposedly clean outsider to sweep away the supposedly corrupt politics of Ukraine’s premier seaport and third biggest city. 

Unofficially there have been constant rumours that Saakashvili was actually brought in because as an outsider he was trusted to hold the ring and keep a balance between the fiercely competing interests of the various Ukrainian oligarchs who have interests in Odessa.  A Ukrainian supposedly could not be trusted in the same way, since he or she would supposedly be bound eventually to be bought one oligarch or another.

Undoubtedly another reason for Saakashvili’s appointment is the disturbed and politically fraught mood in the city.  Odessa, as a creation of Catherine the Great’s, though a culturally very diverse city, has always historically identified itself with Russia, and Russian is the prevalent language there.  Odessa voted for Yanukovych in the 2010 Presidential election, and in May 2014, shortly after the Maidan coup, protests broke out against the coup in the city, during which protesters raised the Russian flag.

This led to clashes with Maidan supporters in the city, culminating in a massacre on 2nd May 2014 in Odessa’s trade union building, which was set on fire after it was occupied by anti Maidan protesters.  As a result 42 anti-Maidan protesters were killed (this is according to official tallies – unofficial reports put the death toll much higher).  Official investigations into what happened have continued to this day, but seem to be going nowhere.

In light of this situation Poroshenko seems to have concluded that he needed a strong “big name” figure to step in to restore the Maidan government’s reputation and authority in the city.

Saakashvili’s appointment took place at a time when appointment of foreigners to senior positions in Ukraine’s power structure were very common and had in fact become something of a fashion. Possibly the most famous example – other than the appointment of Saakashvili himself – was the appointment 9 months after the Maidan coup of the US born investment banker Natalie Jaresko to be Ukraine’s Minister of Finance.

Poroshenko may also have seen in Saakashvili’s appointment something of a propaganda coup.  Saakashvili’s strident anti-Russian and anti-Putin politics whilst President of Georgia, culminating in a short war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 in which Georgia was comprehensively defeated, made Saakashvili into something of a hero for anti-Putin activists throughout the former USSR, including in Russia.  

Bringing Saakashvili to Ukraine and giving him a senior position there must have seemed to Poroshenko a good way to win the support of these people, consolidating Ukraine’s claim within the territory of the former USSR to be the leader of the struggle against “Putinism”, and winning thereby for Ukraine more anti-Putin friends in the West.

As for Saakashvili, the offer of an important position in Ukraine must have looked to him like a good way of restarting his otherwise moribund political career, which appeared to have ended after his flight from Georgia on criminal charges following his unexpected electoral defeat in the Presidential elections of October 2012.

Saakashvili actually has longstanding connections to Ukraine.  Whilst he was President of Georgia he forged a close alliance with Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s strongly anti-Russian Orange President, who in 2006 became the godfather of Saakashvili’s son.  Before his appointment Saakashvili took a close interest in the country, and was an outspoken supporter of the Maidan movement before the Maidan coup.  It is therefore easy to see how accepting an important job in Ukraine – like that of Governor of Odessa – may have seemed to Saakashvili a good way of getting his political career restarted.

In the event the appointment quickly became for Poroshenko and Ukraine a public relations disaster, with Poroshenko and Saakashvili rapidly falling out, and with Saakashvili quickly emerging as a relentless critic of Poroshenko’s government. 

The speed and extent to which Saakashvili had become completely alienated from the Ukrainian leadership became starkly apparent a year ago in December 2015 – just 8 months after Saakashvili was appointed to his post – when Saakashvili and Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had a furious public row on national television during a Ukrainian government meeting.

In truth Saakashvili’s appointment demonstrates the underlying amateurism of Ukraine’s Maidan government. 

It ought to have been obvious that an outsider like Saakashvili was not the right person to navigate the complex shoals of Ukrainian politics, especially in a proud city like Odessa, and especially at a time of national crisis, whilst Saakashvili’s outspoken and domineering personality, and his record as President of Georgia, ought to have made it obvious that he would not be a loyal or compliant subordinate. 

At the time of Saakashvili’s appointment even many Western commentators favourable to Ukraine thought it was a mistake, and events have proved them right.  

In the event not only has Saakashvili resigned, but so apparently has Odessa’s police chief whom he appointed, whilst all the other people he brought with him to Odessa as his team – including the Russian liberal politician Maria Gaidar (daughter of Boris Yeltsin’s liberal prime minister Yegor Gaidar) – have either already left Ukraine or are under investigation by Ukraine’s government.

Saakashvili now apparently plans to lead a political movement in Ukraine in opposition to the Maidan government.   Apparently its pitch will be “the revolution betrayed”. 

As Ukrainians struggle to make ends meet in difficult economic conditions and with winter closing in, and as the gross corruption of their leaders becomes increasingly obvious, there is no doubt that such a pitch could gain traction.  However it is most unlikely that a foreigner and outsider like Saakashvili  is the person to make it successfully.

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…


The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.

RT

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Via RT…


A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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