Saakashvili Tells Protesters In Kyiv He Is Ready To Become Ukraine’s Prime Minister
(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – November 20, 2017 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/saakashvili-ukraine-russia-georgia-kyiv-poroshenko-georgia/28863506.html)
Mikheil Saakashvili, the former governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region, told a protest rally in Kyiv that he is ready to “create a new government of Ukraine” and to become the country’s prime minister.
“Ukraine needs an urgent formation of a new government,” Saakashvili told several hundred people in a tent city of protesters outside the parliament building on November 19. “I’m ready to spearhead this process jointly with you and to head this government if necessary.”
“Let’s create a new government of Ukraine,” he added. “But above all, we will find those Ukrainians who care about Ukraine, who will respect and develop Ukraine.”
Antigovernment protesters set up the tent city outside the Verkhovna Rada building on October 17, calling for the cancellation of parliamentarian immunity, the creation of an anticorruption court, amendments to election laws, and legislation on impeachment of the president.
The protests were initially called by Saakashvili, a onetime ally of President Petro Poroshenko, but many of Ukraine’s opposition political leaders have also joined the demonstrations.
Saakashvili, who heads the opposition Movement of New Forces party, told protesters that if the authorities fail to meet their demands, they should begin a “popular impeachment” of Poroshenko and other leaders starting on December 3.
“December 3 will be the beginning of ‘popular impeachment,'” he said. “Before December 3, we will continue to do what we have started to do. December 3 is Day X for all of us. Let us get organized. I will be traveling across the country to raise people peacefully.”
From 2004-13, Saakashvili was president of Georgia, where he is wanted on suspicion of trying to organize a coup there after his exit from office, allegations he denies.
In 2015, he was appointed by Poroshenko to be governor of the Odesa region and surrendered his Georgian citizenship to take the post.
However, Saakashvili resigned in November 2016, saying his reform efforts had been blocked by Poroshenko’s allies.
Saakashvili was then stripped of Ukrainian citizenship by Poroshenko in June 2017 in a move he is challenging in court.
He left the country as a stateless person, but on September 10 he defied authorities and crossed back into Ukraine from Poland — helped by hundreds of supporters amid scenes of chaos — vowing to return to politics and calling for protests.
Poroshenko has said the real goal of protest organizers is to destabilize Ukraine.
Ukraine’s powerful prosecutor-general, Yuriy Lutsenko, has accused Saakashvili and his supporters of plotting a coup backed by foreign financing.
With reporting by TASS, Interfax, and The Kyiv Post
[featured image is file photo from another occasion]