On Tuesday, December 5, several thousand protesters marched in central Kyiv to demand that President Petro Poroshenko resign. The protest is reportedly led by opposition politician Mikhail Saakashvili, the former mayor of Odessa and president of Georgia. The demonstrations are reportedly ongoing as of 16:30 (local time), and protesters may attempt to occupy the square outside the parliament for an extended time. Additionally, opposition groups are planning to hold another rally at Independence Square on Sunday, December 10. An increased security presence should be anticipated in the vicinity of parliament and other large public spaces along with associated traffic disruptions. Violent clashes between protesters and police cannot be ruled out.
The call for Poroshenko's resignation comes after police attempted to arrest Saakashvili on Tuesday in Kyiv. At around 07:00, police detained Saakashvili at his home on Kostolna Street and put in him into a police vehicle. Hundreds of Saakashvili's supporters then reportedly surrounded the vehicle on Trikhsvyatitelskaya Street as police tried to leave the area. Clashes broke out between police and the demonstrators, with police reportedly using tear gas and pepper spray in an attempt to disperse the crowd. The protesters also reportedly tore up stone from the street and began building barricades on Trikhsvyatitelskaya Street. During the clashes, the protesters broke into the police van and freed Saakashvili. At least nine people were reportedly arrested ruing the clashes. No injuries have been reported, and it is unclear if the streets remain impassible to vehicles. Avoid the area.
Police officials have accused Saakashvili of organizing protests funded by organized crime groups tied to fromer Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych; he has denied the charges. Saakashvili is an ardent opponent of corruption in Ukraine and is calling for sweeping political reforms. In October, Saakashvili led several days of protests outside parliament, calling for the creation of independent anti-corruption courts. At least four people were wounded in clashes between police and demonstrators.
Saakashvili was appointed governor of Odessa in 2015, but resigned in November 2016 over complaints of rampant corruption. Since then, Saakashvili has been an outspoken critic of Poroshenko’s government. In July 2017, President Poroshenko revoked Saakashvili's Ukrainian citizenship, which he had gained as governor of Odessa, leaving Saakashvili stateless; he had previously forfeited his Georgian citizenship when he took Ukrainian citizenship. On September 10, Saakashvili forced his way across the Polish border into Ukraine to continue his anti-corruption campaign. Prior to December 5, Ukrainian authorities had not attempted to arrest Saakashvili.
Individuals in Kyiv are advised to avoid all demonstrations as a precaution, obey any instructions issued by the local authorities, and anticipate increased travel times due to traffic congestion and increased security measures. Due to the underlying terrorist threat amid the ongoing high sociopolitical tensions, remain vigilant and report any suspicious objects or behavior to the local authorities or your security officer.