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Saakashvili leads mass anti-government rally in Ukrainian capital

Former Georgian president and Ukrainian governor Mikheil Saakashvili has led a mass anti-government rally in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

Around three thousand people gathered outside main parliament building in Kiev on Tuesday, protesting against the government of President Petro Poroshenko and his policies.

Some protesters chanted slogans against Poroshenko and called on him to resign in the face of growing economic woes in Ukraine. The number of protesters dwindled in the afternoon to a few hundred people. Some vowed to stay in tents overnight to push with their demands.

Saakashvili, who has become a major anti-government figure on the back of growing differences with Poroshenko, said the president was responsible for persistent poverty in Ukraine.

“I’m calling on the people of Kiev to join us and demand just one thing: that Poroshenko think about his resignation,” he told the protesters.

Saakashvili forced his way into Ukraine from neighboring Poland last month after Poroshenko stripped him of a Ukrainian nationality that had been given to Saakashvili after he was kicked out of office in Georgia. Upon arriving in Ukraine, Saakashvili vowed to stay firm in his fight against corruption in Ukraine.

Former Georgian President Mykheil Saakashvili speaks during a mass rally by the opposition outside the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, October 17, 2017. (AFP photo)

In his quest to topple Poroshenko, Ukraine’s first president after the anti-Russia political overhaul of 2014, Saakashvili enjoys support of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister who is known for her anti-Russia bias. Other opposition groups have also declared their will to rally behind Saakashvili, also a 49-year-old pro-Western.

“There can be no fight against corruption while Poroshenko is in power,” he said during the Tuesday rally, adding, “It is time for them to hear us.”

Chanting “Shame!” and “Out with the gang!”, the protesters also called on Poroshenko’s government to strip lawmakers of immunity from criminal prosecution and establish an anti-corruption high court as demanded by international lenders.

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