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Ukraine: Police clash with protesters over Saakashvili



Published: December 6, 2017 7:00 a. M. Updated: December 6, 2017, 7:29 a.m.

MOSCOW (AP) – Supporters of Ukraine's top opposition politician clashed with police on Wednesday who tried to arrest him for a second time in a tent camp in front of the parliament building in Kiev.

Ukrainian authorities accuse Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia and now an anti-corruption crusader in Ukraine, of plotting with Ukrainian businessmen to overthrow President Petro Poroshenko.

Saakashvili said he would not surrender, although prosecutors could see him in the camp outside the Supreme Rada, where about 1

00 supporters gathered.

"I am ready to welcome your researchers here at the camp," he said. "From the beginning they refused to register my party, then they stripped me of my citizenship, then they lied, it is a pity for you"

It was the second unsuccessful attempt by the police to arrest Saakashvili in several days. On Tuesday, the police stopped him at his home, but escaped with the help of the crowds who had gathered to protest.

Protester Igor Ognyov, from the eastern city of Sumy, told The Associated Press that police raided the camp before dawn Wednesday.

"They burst into the store and began to beat everyone with their hands and clubs," said Ognyov, whose head was bandaged and his face covered in blood.

Two protesters and 11 officers were injured in Wednesday's skirmishes in Kiev, police said.

Efforts to arrest Saakashvili have raised fears that Ukraine may face its most acute political crisis since the revolution of 2014.

Poroshenko appointed Saakashvili as governor of the Odessa region in 2015, but resigned the following year after fighting with the president. Earlier this year, Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of Ukrainian citizenship while he was out of the country, but the former Georgian president returned in September, helped by his supporters.

Saakashvili has gained great popularity in Ukraine with its fierce campaign against official corruption. a wave of public frustration over Poroshenko's failure to uproot the endemic engraftment. He has organized a series of rallies calling for the resignation of the president, but they have not produced any visible impact.

Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko says his office has evidence that Saakashvili's representative received $ 500,000 to finance protests by Ukrainian businessmen linked to Russia.

Saakashvili rejected the accusations and said there has been hostility between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Inna Varenytsia contributed to this report from Kiev, Ukraine.


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