Ukraine Live Day 666: Avakov Throws Water In Saakashvili’s Face As Tensions Erupt

December 15, 2015
A militant examines a tank labelled "Rus'," the historic name for Russia, in southeastern Ukraine on December 12, 2015, evidently Gorlovka. Photoa via @666_mancer

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Avakov Throws Water In Saakashvili’s Face As Tensions Erupt

Tensions within the Ukrainian government have once again broken out with accusations of criminality and farcical violence.

Last night Arsen Avakov, the interior minister, threw a glass of water at the governor of the Odessa region, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, during a meeting in President Petro Poroshenko’s office.

Serhiy Leshchenko, an investigative journalist and MP in Poroshenko’s party, wrote that witnesses had told him that a row broke out between Saakashvili, on one side, and Avakov and the prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. 

Avakov wrote on his Facebook page that Saakashvili had “broken down in hysterics” after he questioned his contacts with Russian oligarchs.

According to Avakov, Saakashvili said:

“Nobody has the right to speak to Mikhail Saakashvili like that… You’re a corrupt minister and I am an honest man.”

Avakov says that he “resisted hitting him” and instead “splashed his face with water.”

“It has been time since I last saw such a wacko populist… He didn’t let a word in – interrupting everyone, including the President.”

But according to Leshchenko’s sources and Saakashvili himself, both Avakov and Yatsenyuk went on to tell the governor that he should get out of Ukraine.

The prime minister reportedly called Saakashvili a “gastrolyor” – guest actor or star.

Both Saakashvili and Avakov have called on the Presidential Administration to release security camera footage of the incident. 

Saakashvili said that he wanted to “apologise” to Ukrainians on behalf of the government for the behaviour demonstrated.

Interfax-Ukraine reports:

“I want to address to Ukrainians. I have commitments to each of you, I must apologize that unfortunately the authorities, part of which I am, threw you into such situation. I want to apologize for the authorities, who…vulgarize everything and make a laughing-stock of themselves and its country as well. I mean not the whole government, but its larger part, which is presented by our leader of the government. I really want to express regret that everything was transformed into brothel and circus,” he said at a briefing following the meeting of the National Reforms Council in Kyiv on Monday.

“What I wish to tell Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatseniuk, who calls me a ‘guest artist’, and his accomplices on a par with him suggest me to get out of the country, I’m proud to be [Ukrainian] passport holder. This passport isn’t just a formal document – it is my obligation to the Ukrainian people, to people of our state. I have been spending many years in Ukraine. I wasn’t born in Ukraine, but I in fact grew up here…I was an active participant of both Maidans…I’m not going to leave this state and won’t allow them to continue rob a wonderful beloved Ukraine,” Saakashvili stressed.

Saakashvili has also made specific allegations against Avakov, accusing him of running illegal paramilitary groups.

“This is a man [Arsen Avakov], who indeed controls illegal armed formations, finances them due to corruption income, and I tend not to treat his threats seriously, threats not to my person – I’m not afraid of him – but towards society in general.”

Yatsenyuk and Saakashvili have been on a collision course for several months now. In September the governor accused the prime minister of undermining reforms and protecting corrupt officials and oligarchs. 

Meanwhile the former president himself has also been accused of corrupt activities since taking over Odessa. At the beginning of this month, Dmitry Golubev, an MP in President Poroshenko’s party, accused Saakashvili of racketeering.

— Pierre Vaux