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Saakashvili Predicts Putin's 'Full Isolation,' Rise of Russian Opposition
WARSAW -- Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president and ex-governor of Ukraine's Odesa region who was stripped last month of his Ukrainian citizenship, says Russian President Vladimir Putin will eventually face "full international isolation" as a result of tensions between Moscow and the West.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service on August 7, Saakashvili also predicted that political opposition forces “will certainly prevail” in Russia.
"In the end, Putin will be in full international isolation. He is going downhill fast," Saakashvili said during a visit to Warsaw.
"There is a serious opposition rising up inside Russia," Saakashvili continued. "I am referring to the youth that we saw in the streets recently following [calls to rally by opposition leader Aleksei] Navalny. They were not those well-to-do people who had come out on Bolotnaya [Square in 2012] for protests that were limited to Moscow and St. Petersburg."
Rather, Saakashvili said, Russia's new "rising" opposition was made up of "poor but well educated and very well informed" people, "millions and millions of residents of Russia. And that is a very big force."
Saakashvili acknowledged that Russia's opposition remained in the minority for now. But he said that together with those who passively support antigovernment protests, the opposition now had the moral support of a majority of Russians, "and they will certainly prevail."
Saakashvili also echoed the concerns aired in the Baltic states about Zapad 2017, the joint military exercises Russia is holding with Belarus in September, saying he thinks Putin will leave thousands of Russian troops in Belarus after the drills to establish a military outpost against neighboring NATO countries.
"I think the most imminent threat [from Russia] is coming up against Belarus, because I think part of the military personnel and equipment will remain in Belarus after the exercises," Saakashvili told RFE/RL.
"It is unlikely they will do anything during the exercises. But any trap might be expected after the exercises. I think they are considering the possibility of the complete occupation of Belarus, and possibly an annexation of that country. That would be yet another big crisis in the region."