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Arrest of Saakashili prompts street violence in Kyiv

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Ukrainian security forces were battling the supporters of Mikhail Saakashvili after arresting the former Georgian president in Kyiv. Saakashili, once an ally of Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, now accuses him of corruption, reported Deutsche Welle (Germany).

Supporters of Mikhail Saakashili set up street barricades in Kyiv after he was arrested in his apartment on Tuesday, with the crowd of around 1,000 protesters trying to block the police vehicle from taking him away. Later reports from the scene suggest that Saakashili's supporters managed to free him from the police van.

The former Georgian president previously addressed the crowd from the roof of his apartment building before he was detained by the security forces.

"What they are doing is lawlessness in the eyes of the whole world," Saakashili told his supporters. "I urge all Ukrainians to take to the streets and drive out the thieves."
He also threatened to jump at one point.

The crowd of the pro-Saakashvili protesters continued to clash with the police on site. They pierced the tires and broke windows on the the blue police minivan containing the 49-year-old politician.

Saakashili feuds with Poroshenko
Masked members of the Ukrainian security agency SBU arrested several people and used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Reinforcements were called to the scene.

The SBU says Saakashvili is suspected of assisting criminal organizations. On Tuesday, Ukraine's general prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko stated that Saakashvili received half a million dollars from a Russian businessman to fund his activities in Ukraine.

The politician allegedly used the funds to "finance protests aimed at taking power and ending investigations against former representatives of the regime" led by former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich. In a possible signal to Saakashvili supporters, however, the prosecutor also said that authorities wanted to put Saakashvili under house arrest with an electronic bracelet.

The Georgia-born Saakashili served as Georgian president between 2008 and 2013. Many blame his miscalculations for the one-month long war between Russia and Georgia, which ended with Tbilisi's defeat.

He moved into Ukrainian politics after the country's breakup with its long-standing ally Russia in 2014 and was granted Ukrainian citizenship before taking over as governor in the Ukrainian region of Odessa in 2015.

However, he quit the post in 2016 amid a public spat with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, accusing Poroshenko of corruption and obstruction of Odessa's anti-graft efforts.

Saakashili soon left Ukraine and was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship, but managed to return to the country after his supporters broke through a police line on the Polish border.
'You would not wish something like that on your enemy'

The standoff in Kyiv also prompted a response from Moscow, with Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that Russia following the events with "interest."
"Once again, Kyiv surprises us. Once again, Saakashili suprises us," Peskov said. "He is in a complicated situation."

However, he also said the issue is primarily a Ukrainian concern.
"You would not even wish something like that on your enemy, even though, of course, we don't see the people of Ukraine as our enemies."

***

The ex-president of Georgia turned Ukrainian opposition leader has called on his supporters to topple the current Ukrainian leader and his “gang.” Earlier, protesters freed the politician from the police van taking him in for questioning, reported Russia Today.

Saakashvili’s supporters broke the rear door of the van he was being transported in. The protesters took Saakashvili to a nearby church, where he addressed the crowd. The opposition leader called on the protesters to take to the infamous Maidan Square and topple incumbent Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko and his “gang.”

“I will lay down my life for Ukraine’s freedom. I want to call on all the Kievans to take to the streets today, to gather in Maidan and start the process of deliverance of Petro Poroshenko and his gang from Ukraine,” Saakashvili said addressing the crowd.

As the politician finished his anti-government speech, the protesters started marching through the streets of the Ukrainian capital.

The standoff between the protesters and Ukrainian security forces lasted for several hours, leaving several people injured, before Saakashvili’s forced release. On Tuesday morning, the former Georgian president went on the roof of his apartment building in Kiev and threatened to jump off, while security forces searched his apartment. After the opposition activist was detained, supporters started blocking the nearby streets with tires, stones, bins, and cars to prevent police from taking Saakashvili to a detention facility.

The police van became stuck in the crowd, and protests smashed the front window. Ukrainian security forces used tear gas and deployed more officers to the site in attempt to clear the way. The protesters tried to break the police cordon and used what appears to be pepper spray against the officers.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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Category: Politics
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