SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2019
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Thousands demand Poroshenko to step down
Journal Staff Report

KYIV, Feb. 4 - Thousands of protesters have marched in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday to demand the resignation of President Petro Poroshenko.

The protest of about 5,000 people in Kyiv was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who moved to Ukraine as a Poroshenko ally but then was stripped of his citizenship last year, The Associated Press reported.

Saakashvili told participants: Todays action is the beginning of a campaign to dismantle this rotten and corrupt system. And Poroshenkos resignation is only the first step.

Saakashvili was abroad when he lost his citizenship, but forced his way back into Ukraine in September and since then has led repeated protests against Poroshenko, alleging the president is corrupt.

The rally was broadcast live on his Facebook page.

Protesters have even selected a resignation date for Poroshenko: Feb. 18, when they want him to come to Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti downtown square, to announce his resignation.

"At noon [on that day], we will come to Maidan, to [squares] in each and every Ukrainian city. There will be millions of us. Get out of our way!," a member of Ukraine's parliament said at Sunday's rally.

No arrests or clashes with police were reported.

The march comes less than two months after a similar protest led by Saakashvili resulted in clashes between protesters and police, leaving 32 officers injured, according to police.

The protesters tried to storm a building in downtown Kyiv in order to set up protest headquarters, but had later retreated.

The clashes included the firing of tear gas and the use of fire extinguishers.

Police accused protesters of throwing firecrackers and deploying an "unknown gas," adding that criminal investigations had been opened into attempted seizure of a public building, threats and violence against law enforcement officers, and impeding law enforcement work.

Saakashvili distanced himself from the attempt to storm the October Palace, saying that he wanted to "rent two rooms there" and that the clashes were "President Poroshenko's game and provocation." (ap/ez)

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