Saakashvili-Led Protesters Clash With Police During Attempted Theater Siege
17 December, 2017

Clashes have erupted in central Kyiv after several thousand protesters demonstrated today to call for the impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko.

The protesters — who were taking part in the “March for Impeachment” organized by former Georgian president and Odesa region governor Mikheil Saakashvili — clashed with police while trying to seize the October Palace concert hall, where a jazz performance was taking place.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Saakashvili reportedly called for protesters to seize the theater and set up a headquarters for his movement. However, later, the Georgian-Ukrainian politician told Radio Svoboda that he did not order the building’s seizure. Rather, he said he had learned that there were two free rooms in the building for him to set up a headquarters.

The UNIAN news agency reported that Saakashvili later attempted to steer his followers away from the concert hall and redirect them to the Ukrainian parliament.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

"I'm ready to give up everything in order to win… I have no money, but I am ready to give up my freedom and my life, but I'm not ready to give up other people's lives, I'm not ready to give up the blood of our children," Saakashvili reportedly told the crowd at Independence Square.

The clashes caught the attention of foreign authorities, including British Ambassador to Ukraine Judith Gough and Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk, who condemned the chaos on Twitter.

“Attempts to seize and damage public buildings are an abuse of the right to peaceful protest,” Waschuk‏ tweeted.

Prominent reformist politicians, including Saakashvili’s former allies, have also condemned his actions.

Mustafa Nayyem, a Ukrainian MP and former journalist whose Facebook post launched the Euromaidan protests in 2013, criticized the storm of the October Theater as pointless. “Such actions undermine trust in street demonstrations and discredit protest as a phenomenon,” he wrote on Facebook.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

The National Police have opened two criminal cases in relation to the incidents in front of the October Palace on December 17.

In a press statement released on their website, the police accused participants of throwing firecrackers, attempting to break into the palace and damaging the building’s doors.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Police also claimed that law enforcement officers suffered poisoning from an unknown substance.

An estimated 800 people were attending a concert at the time of the march.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Saakashvili was taken into custody by Ukraine’s Security Services earlier this month but was released several days later after a judge rejected calls for the former Odesa Governor to be placed under house arrest.

Since December 5, the Ukrainian authorities have pursued the self-proclaimed opposition figure, whom they accuse of receiving money from Serhiy Kurchenko, a fugitive Ukrainian oligarch with ties to ousted Russia-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych.

Saakashvili has denied these charges.