Ukraine Protesters Seek Poroshenko's Removal at Kiev Rally

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Protestors in central Kiev on Dec. 17. 

Photographer: Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Supporters of Ukraine opposition politician Mikheil Saakashvili clashed with police in the capital Kiev in a protest to demand that parliament initiate impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko.

A few thousand protesters marched to Kiev’s central Independence Square for a rally, following similar meetings that have taken place for several consecutive Sundays. Their leader, ex-Georgian President Saakashvili, delivered a speech urging for the removal of Poroshenko from power as well as local oligarchs including the richest Ukrainian, Rinat Akhmetov, who he called “the enemy of Ukraine.”

Saakashvili, a former ally of Ukraine’s president, is now one of his main political rivals. The two fell out after Saakashvili stepped down from the post of governor of the country’s Odessa region in 2016. Since then, Saakashvili, known for a successful crackdown on graft in post-Soviet Georgia, has been criticizing Poroshenko for corruption and has been deprived of Ukrainian citizenship.

“I’m suggesting Poroshenko or his representatives have a meeting on camera to discuss just one issue: how they will give back money, stop corruption schemes, bring their allies to justice and go away,” Saakasvhili said to his supporters.

He suggested they use Zhovtnevy Palace, in the city’s downtown, as a base for the protest. Supporters later clashed with police trying to break through a security perimeter around the building. They got into the building’s hall but were then stopped from going further by police using fire extinguishers, news service Ukrayinska Pravda reported.

Most of the protesters left Zhovtnevy after Saakasvhili urged them to stop storming the building, which was hosting a concert, according to Espreso TV. The Canadian and British ambassadors in Ukraine condemned the attempt to seize and damage public buildings.

Ukraine may deport Saakashvili to Georgia, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told reporters on Friday. He was released after being detained for crossing the country’s border in a move that Ukraine’s authorities called illegitimate.

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