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Thousands in Ukraine Demand Saakashvili's Release

  • VOA News

Supporters of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili hold a rally in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 10, 2017.

Thousands in Ukraine rallied Sunday in protest of the arrest of opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, calling for his release and the impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko.

Ukrainian officials have accused Saakashvili, whom they arrested Friday, of abetting an alleged "criminal group" led by former President Viktor Yanukovych — who was pushed from power in 2014 and fled to Russia — and have suggested that his protests are part of a Russian plot against Ukraine.

A day after he declared a hunger strike, his supporters took to the streets of Kyiv to demand his release.

"The authorities have crossed a red line. You don't put opponents in prison," said Saakashvili's wife, Sandra Roelofs, as marchers brandished anti-government and anti-corruption slogans.

Saakashvili, 49, is also wanted in his native Georgia, where he served as president from 2004 until 2013, for alleged abuse of power.

Saakashvili became a regional governor in Ukraine in 2015 at the invitation of President Poroshenko. However, the two men later had a falling out, with Saakashvili accusing the president of corruption and calling for his removal from office.

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