‘Kiev, get up!’ 1000s of Saakashvili supporters demand Ukraine president’s impeachment (VIDEO)
Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Kiev to demand the impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko, as well as the release of former Georgian president turned Ukrainian opposition leader, Mikhail Saakashvili.
Chanting “Free Misha!” and “Poroshenko should resign!”, the protesters made their way to the Maidan square of the capital, scene of the 2013-14 unrest which brought about the coup and subsequently the civil war in the east. Among the demonstrators was Saakashvili’s wife, Sandra Roelofs.
“They have already crossed the red line,” Roelofs told the crowd. “You don’t need to put your opponents in jail, no. You need to show that you too can make reforms, that you too want what’s good for the people. But we do not see this. So get up, Kiev, Ukraine, get up!”
In a post on Facebook, the Movement of New Forces – the political party headed by Saakashvili – claimed some fifty thousand Ukrainians attended the rally. Police, though, put the figure closer to 2,500, while the UNIAN news agency reported 2,000 supporters.
Riot police were on hand, but the march proceeded peacefully, with only a few demonstrators stopping to hurl snowballs at the windows of Poroshenko’s chocolate business as they passed by.
The red and black flags of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or UPA were spotted at the rally. Under leader Stepan Bandera, the UPA fought a guerilla war against the Soviets in World War II, collaborating with the Nazis and committing mass atrocities against Poles and Jews. Despite these war crimes, Bandera and his men are seen as heroic freedom fighters by modern-day Ukrainian nationalists.
Saakashvili is being held at a pretrial detention center of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), accused of assisting a criminal organization. Saakashvili claims he’s being set up because of his political opposition to Poroshenko and has gone on a hunger strike in protest.
Saakashvili led the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and won some international praise for his anti-corruption reforms, but fell from grace after launching the war against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, corruption charges and his targeting of political rivals. After fleeing Georgia, Saakashvili turned his attention to the events in Ukraine, where he was granted Ukrainian citizenship by Poroshenko and appointed governor of Odessa in 2015. But it wasn’t long before the two men were on collision course, with Saakashvili accusing Poroshenko of corruption and Poroshenko subsequently revoking Saakashvili’s citizenship. The stateless Saakashvili, however, re-entered Ukraine on foot with his loyal followers overwhelming the border guards standing on the frontier with Poland.
The former Georgian president was arrested Tuesday after a dramatic stand-off with Ukrainian police in which he threatened to jump off the roof of a five-story building. Officers dragged him away, but with the help of his supporters, he escaped. He was re-arrested Friday.