KIEV – Dozens of supporters of a currently stateless former Georgian president who has become an anti-corruption activist in Ukraine tried on Sunday to storm an international arts and culture center in Kiev amid wider protests in the city against Ukraine’s government.
As Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s third president and the former governor of Odessa, staged huge rallies in the Ukrainian capital, a group protesters tried to seize the October Palace performance center while a show was underway inside, leading to clashes with police.
An interior ministry spokesman, Artem Shevchenko, called for calm on his official Twitter page and urged demonstrators to leave the area around the October Palace as children were among the audience members inside.
Several protesters, some wielding smoke bombs, managed to breach the main door of the building but were pushed back by a wall of security officials.
Thousands of others protested in central Kiev at a rally attended by Saakashvili, who has become an anti-government figurehead in the eastern European country since he forced his way across the border from Poland in September.
He returned to Ukraine not long after he was stripped of his Ukrainian nationality, rendering him stateless, as he had already handed in his Georgian citizenship in order to govern Odessa.
On Dec. 9, he was arrested by Ukrainian security forces on allegations that he had worked with Russia in a bid to overthrow President Petro Poroshenko, whom he accuses of stifling his anti-corruption efforts.
He denied the allegations and has since been released by the courts.