Saakashvili's supporters take to the streets

After two failed attempts to arrest the Ukrainian opposition leader and former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, tensions are rising in Kiev. Demonstrators have set up camp outside the parliament and police officers and Saakashvili supporters were injured during riots. Commentators believe the conflict between the government and Saakashvili could trigger a new wave of protests.

Open/close all quotes
Den (UA) /

A storm brewing on the Maidan

Mikheil Saakashvili's failed arrest could mark a turning point for the protests that have been staged in Kiev since October, writes journalist Ilya Fedoseyev in Den:

“With the arrest and then the release of Mikheil Saakashvili the developments entered a new phase. The opposition may be silly and not interesting for anyone, but only for as long as the state doesn't use any violence against it. Because violence always incites counter-violence. The Euromaidan would never have taken place without the Berkut [police force]. The square outside the parliament recently remained empty for one and a half months, but when the author of these lines went there on the evening of December 5 he saw quite a few people with extremely determined expressions on their faces.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Potential for mobilisation is there

Mikheil Saakashvili could manage to mobilise the Ukrainians with his anti-corruption campaign, blogger Pierre Haffner writes on Mediapart:

“For the moment this confrontation appears to be a conflict between two individuals. Mikheil Saakashvili represents a minority of public opinion, even if the topics he brings up have huge potential for mobilisation. The Poroshenko years seem to be lost years. Saakashvili could well rally public opinion behind him and revive the hopes of Maidan - provided he and his 'Movement of New Forces' survive the upcoming ordeals.”

NV (UA) /

Supporters willing to go to any lengths

Saakashvili is causing a major upset in Ukrainian politics, political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko writes in the weekly news magazine Novoye Vremya:

“What is the problem for the state? The ex-governor [Saakashvili] has a significant if not large number of hyperactive supporters who are willing to take decisive action. There aren't many of them, just a few hundred [in Kiev] and a few more in the country. What is their plan? Will they take violent action against the government? Anything's possible. So it's almost certain that the relations between the Ukrainian state and part of the opposition will become even more strained.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Moscow will exploit the conflict

Former Moscow and Kiev correspondent Andrzej Łomanowski warns in Rzeczpospolita that the trial of strength between Poroshenko and Saakashvili could have far-reaching repercussions:

“The conflict between the government in Kiev and Mikheil Saakashvili might even be considered amusing if it didn't pose a major threat to the Ukrainian state. ... Both sides should end this political dispute immediately for the sake of the state and leave each other alone. ... But they are carrying on regardless and making decisions that will be difficult to reverse and from which their mutual opponent in Moscow will soon begin to benefit.”

Moskovskij Komsomolets (RU) /

Washington has a hand in the developments

For Vladimir Sharichin, deputy director of the Moscow-based CIS Institute, yesterday's scenes in Kiev bear all the hallmarks of foreign interference. In Moskovskij Komsomolets he writes:

“All this is happening because this state is dependent. Someone is applying the brakes. And that someone isn't sitting in Moscow but in another capital on another continent. It seems to me that these incidents which only seem funny at first glance could have serious consequences for Ukraine. Poroshenko is a 'pro-Democratic' president who orients himself on the Democratic Party in the US. But Hillary Clinton lost the election and now someone in Washington needs a different, 'pro-Republican' president. ... That person doesn't have to be Saakashvili - he can just do his job and then take his leave.”