On the anniversary of Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests of 2013 and 2014, Ukrainians took to the streets once again to demand the resignation of President Petro Poroshenko, the Kiev Post reports. The recent wave of anti-Poroshenko protests has been growing since October 2017, according to Newsweek. As combat with Russia in Ukraine’s eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk has reached a standstill with little promise of resolution, veterans have become key drivers of dissidence in the growing anti-corruption movement, Newsweek finds.
Although Poroshenko’s government successfully ratified the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement following former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych’s failure to do so, many believe that Poroshenko has not distanced himself enough from the former president and his preference for the oligarchic order, as found in Reuters. Demonstrators demand an end to the permissive attitude towards corruption, which, as Newsweek reports, includes laws that offer immunity to state legislators.
Furthermore, long-standing tensions between the people and Poroshenko are exacerbated by the rise of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in opposition to Poroshenko. Saakashvili served as president of Georgia from the 2003 Rose Revolution until his ouster in 2013, when Poroshenko granted him Ukrainian citizenship and a governing position in Odessa, noted the Guardian. However, Saakashvili’s growing disillusionment with Poroshenko’s perceived progressiveness inspired the creation of a new opposition party, the Movement of New Forces.
The Guardian reports that, in recent months, the former president- turned-regional governor has attracted significant media attention with his dramatic escape from Ukrainian authorities after organizing a protest in December. Additionally, allegations leveled against him claim that his display of dissidence is funded by the Russian government, which has made him a suspect in the eyes of the authorities, reports Reuters. However, despite Saakashvili’s large presence in the public eye as a rallying point against corruption, popular support for Movement of New Forces remains below two percent.
Saakashvili and Yuriy Derevyanko, an official of his new political party, spoke at the rally. Derevyanko challenged Poroshenko to come to the main square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, and declare his resignation by February 18 or risk impeachment, according to the Kiev Post. Saakashvili added to the call with a promise to deliver a list of potential new ministers and presidential candidates by the deadline. The Kiev Post reports that Saakashvili’s followers, who were among the thousands who protested on February 4, are frustrated with the lack of progress in corruption reform and rapprochement with the West promised to the Ukrainian population nearly four years ago.
The Guardian reported that increased efforts by the National Guard to control the protests have only inflamed tensions. Saakashvili accuses Poroshenko of “trying to get rid of a loud voice telling them they are thieves” and his allies in government of obstructing democratic protest. The main square was blocked by authorities on the grounds of another protest held regarding registration rates of European Union license plates. Saakashvili and his followers believe this and the recent installation of metal structures bearing the Ukrainian flag to be an invention of Poroshenko’s allies, such as Oleh Yaroshevych, who led the obstructive protest. According to the Kiev Post, regardless of these efforts it is clear that protests will persist, with the next large demonstration scheduled for Sunday, February 18.