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Ukraine bans Saakashvili for three years

© AFP/File | Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been banned from entering Ukraine for three years

KIEV (AFP) - 

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili on Wednesday was banned from entering Ukraine for three years after Kiev deported the opposition leader earlier this month.

Ukrainian border service spokesman Oleg Slobodyan told AFP that Saakashvili was banned on the orders of the commander in charge of the border section he illegally crossed in September.

But in the latest chapter of a high-profile, months-long saga, the firebrand politician responded defiantly.

"With or without me, the end has already come for these authorities, and I will return home to Ukraine very soon now, much, much sooner than in three years," he wrote on Facebook.

He also posted on Facebook a response from the border service that said his entry ban runs until February 13, 2021.

Saakashvili had been living in exile in Ukraine before being detained by masked men at a Kiev restaurant and deported to Poland on February 12. The politician, who is married to a Dutch woman, then travelled to the Netherlands.

A court in September found Saakashvili guilty of illegally crossing Ukraine's border after he forced his way back into the conflict-riven country with the help of hundreds of supporters, pushing aside border guards.

Ukraine stripped him of his citizenship in 2016, rendering him stateless as he had already lost his Georgian citizenship.

Saakashvili, a former governor of Ukraine's Odessa region, was once an ally of President Petro Poroshenko, but then became one of his greatest foes.

Kiev accuses Saakashvili of trying to stage a coup sponsored by allies of former Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych -- a charge he strongly denies.

The charismatic Saakashvili is credited with pushing through pro-Western and anti-graft reforms in Georgia, which he led from 2004 to 2013.

But he is wanted in his homeland for alleged abuse of power during a tumultuous nine years as president that saw him fight and lose a brief war with Russia in 2008.

© 2018 AFP