Supporters of deported former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili demand impeachment of Petro Poroshenko
Thousands of supporters of the deported former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili have marched through the streets of Kiev, demanding the impeachment of the Ukrainian president.
Journalists said an estimated 10,000 people took part in the rally on Sunday, though the ministry of internal affairs put the number at about 3,000.
Protesters carried banners portraying President Petro Poroshenko with a red line drawn over his face. The demonstrators chanted “impeachment”, “resignation” and “Poroshenko is a thief”.
Saakashvili, 50, who had been living in exile in Ukraine, was detained by masked men at a restaurant in central Kiev and deported to Poland on Monday.
The state border guard service said he had been residing in Ukraine “illegally” and was sent to the country from where he initially came.
On Tuesday, Saakashvili gave a press conference in Warsaw and said he had been blindfolded and rushed first by van, then by helicopter, to Kiev international airport.
On Wednesday, the opposition leader, who is married to a Dutch woman, arrived in the Netherlands.
Kiev resident Galina Zagoruiko, one of the protesters on Sunday, said: “People can’t stand it any more – that nothing changes and everything just gets worse.” Like many others, she had come to support a political party founded by Saakashvili.
Saakashvili, a former governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, was once an ally of Poroshenko but then became one of his greatest critics. Kiev accuses Saakashvili of trying to stage a coup sponsored by allies of former Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych – a charge he strongly denies.
Ukraine stripped Saakashvili of his passport, but he continued to challenge the government, organising frequent protests demanding Poroshenko steps down.
With the help of supporters, he crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border in September last year, and was briefly detained in December in Kiev.
Saakashvili is wanted by the Georgian government on multiple criminal charges, which he says are politically motivated.