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Ukraine bans 36 foreigners including Serbian national

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Ukraine has banned entry to former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili and 35 other foreigners suspected of working with the opposition "to destabilise" the country amid mass pro-EU protests, a report said Tuesday.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry and the security service have declared Saakashvili, 29 other Georgians, five US citizens and one Serb as persona non grata, the Kommersant Ukraine daily reported.

The banned Georgians are mostly businessmen while the US citizens blacklisted are NGO members and academics. Various Balkan media outlets report that the Serbian citizen is Marko Ivković "who was in a team which collaborated in revolution and overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic."

 

According to the Kommersant, 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."

"Their activities are posing a threat to national security," he said in his appeal to authorities, attaching a list of "persons who could represent the political interests of other countries."

Contacted by AFP, neither the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) or the foreign ministry could confirm the information.

But on Friday, the Ukrainian authorities briefly detained and then deported a Georgian journalist from Rustavi 2 television station, David Kakulia, who was covering demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Rustavi 2 has a reputation of being sympathetic to Saakashvili, who led Georgia's own 2003 Rose Revolution and personally visited the protests on Independence Square in Kiev. Having studied in Kiev, Saakashvili also speaks excellent Ukrainian.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to scrap key trade and political agreements with the European Union has plunged the ex-Soviet country into its most acute political crisis since the pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004.

Pro-EU protesters are still occupying Kiev's Independence Square in a bid to persuade the government to sign an EU trade and partnership pact, which would mark a major break with the Kremlin.

Last week Yanukovych told Western powers to stay out of his country's political crisis, after senior EU and US officials met leaders of the anti-government protests in the Ukrainian capital.