Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Kiev to demand the impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko, as well as the release of former Georgian president turned Ukrainian opposition leader, Mikhail Saakashvili.
Chanting “Free Misha!” and “Poroshenko should resign!”, the protesters made their way to the Maidan square of the capital, scene of the 2013-14 unrest which brought about the coup and subsequently the civil war in the east. Among the demonstrators was Saakashvili’s wife, Sandra Roelofs.
“They have already crossed the red line,” Roelofs told the crowd. “You don’t need to put your opponents in jail, no. You need to show that you too can make reforms, that you too want what’s good for the people. But we do not see this. So get up, Kiev, Ukraine, get up!”
In a post on Facebook, the Movement of New Forces – the political party headed by Saakashvili – claimed some fifty thousand Ukrainians attended the rally. Police, though, put the figure closer to 2,500, while the UNIAN news agency reported 2,000 supporters.
Riot police were on hand, but the march proceeded peacefully, with only a few demonstrators stopping to hurl snowballs at the windows of Poroshenko’s chocolate business as they passed by.
The red and black flags of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or UPA were spotted at the rally. Under leader Stepan Bandera, the UPA fought a guerilla war against the Soviets in World War II, collaborating with the Nazis and committing mass atrocities against Poles and Jews. Despite these war crimes, Bandera and his men are seen as heroic freedom fighters by modern-day Ukrainian nationalists.