The apparent breakthrough came on Sunday evening when a throng of supporters forced their way past Ukrainian border guards and entered Ukraine at a border crossing between Medyka, Poland, and Shehyni.
His return to Ukraine could sharply raise political temperatures at a time when President Poroshenko is struggling with a Russian-backed armed rebellion in the eastern part of the country and mounting criticism from political opponents that, like his ousted pro-Russian predecessor, Viktor F. Yanukovych, he tolerates and benefits from rampant corruption.
Sunday’s meandering journey through Poland was not the first time Mr. Saakashvili has wandered in a foreign land — in 2014, he roamed the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as he plotted a political comeback — but this time the stakes are high, as his homeland, Georgia, has requested his extradition. The Georgian authorities want him back so that he can face charges of abuse of power and corruption, allegations that Mr. Saakashvili has dismissed as baseless and politically motivated.
Mr. Saakashvili was president of Georgia for all but two months from 2004 to 2013. His popularity fell after a disastrous war with Russia in 2008 and a wave of arrests that he said were necessary to fight corruption but that critics denounced as political score settling.
His fortunes appeared to revive in May 2015, when Mr. Poroshenko invited him to be governor of the Odessa region, an area of southern Ukraine on the Black Sea that is notorious for its deeply entrenched corruption. The idea was that Mr. Saakashvili, a graduate of Columbia Law School and a foe of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, would help stamp out corruption and help satisfy demands for open government after the ouster of Mr. Yanukovych in 2014.
The honeymoon was brief: Mr. Saakashvili resigned last November, accusing Mr. Poroshenko of obstructing his efforts to root out graft. He had clashed frequently with many of Mr. Poroshenko’s political and business allies, including Ukraine’s powerful interior minister, Arsen B. Avakov, who last year mocked the former Georgian leader as a “circus artist” and threw a glass of water in his face.
In Ukraine, as happened in Georgia, Mr. Saakashvili has become a highly divisive figure, revered by supporters as a zealous enforcer of clean government but reviled by enemies as a showman prone to flamboyant stunts.
Georgia stripped Mr. Saakashvili of his citizenship in December 2015 after he took up Ukrainian citizenship. Then, in July of this year, Ukraine revoked his citizenship, too — leaving him without a country.
On Sunday, Mr. Saakashvili embarked from the Polish city of Rzeszow, in the southeast of the country, and made his way by road to the city of Przemysl. There, he boarded a train that was supposed to travel to Lviv. The train was held, and an onboard announcement warned that the train would not depart unless people not authorized to travel — meaning Mr. Saakashvili — got off. When he refused to do so, other passengers left the train to board a bus as an alternative.
After several hours, Mr. Saakashvili himself boarded a bus, to the Medyka-Shehyni border crossing. There, he was met by border guards, linked arm in arm, who refused to let him into Ukraine. After lengthy scuffles, a crowd forced its way past the Ukrainian guards, apparently with Mr. Saakashvili in its midst.
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