Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ukraine Bans 36 Foreigners, Including Georgian Ex-President

KIEV, Ukraine -- A newspaper report says the Ukrainian government has banned 36 foreigners from entering the country, including former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili greets pro-European integration protesters in Independence Square in Kiev on December 7. Ukraine's opposition accused President Viktor Yanukovich on Saturday of betraying national interests.

Ukraine's "Kommersant" daily reported on December 24 that the Foreign Ministry and the Ukrainian Security Service had banned the individuals because they were suspected of working with the opposition to “destabilize" the country amid mass pro-EU protests.

Apart from Saakashvili, 29 other Georgians, five U.S. citizens, and one Serbian have been declared as persona non grata, according to the newspaper.

The banned Georgians are mostly businessmen, while the U.S. citizens blacklisted are NGO members and academics.

According to the newspaper, the decision was made at the request of Oleg Tsarev, a lawmaker from the ruling Regions Party who feared "frequent visits of foreign political consultants" was "posing a threat to national security."

Saakashvili traveled to Kiev during the height of the street backlash against the Ukrainian government's decision to suspend EU Association Agreement negotiations in late November, appearing before the pro-EU "Euromaidan" crowd on Independence Square and telling attendees that "nothing can prevent our common aspiration of freedom."

Saakashvili is reviled in Moscow, which has discouraged Kiev from its stated EU aspirations and recently agreed billions of dollars in aid to help Ukraine handle a looming debt crisis.

Source: Radio Free Europe

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