Thousands of Saakashvili supporters march in Kiev

Activists (R) gather opposite security personnel during a mass march and rally calling for the impeachment of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko organized by "Movement Of The New Forces" which is headed by former Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili in Kiev on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Thousands of Saakashvili supporters march in Kiev

KIEV: Thousands of supporters of deported former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili marched through the streets of Kiev on Sunday, demanding the impeachment of the Ukrainian President.
An AFP correspondent saw some 10,000 people taking part in the rally, though the ministry of internal affairs put the number at around 3,000 participants.
Protesters carried banners portraying president Petro Poroshenko with a red line drawn over his face. The demonstrators chanted “Impeachment!,” “Resignation!” and “Poroshenko is a thief!“
Former Georgian President Saakashvili, 50, who had been living in exile in Ukraine, was detained by masked men at a restaurant in central Kiev and deported to Poland on Monday.
The state border guard service said he had been residing in Ukraine “illegally” and was sent to the country where he initially came from.
On Tuesday, Saakashvili gave a press conference in Warsaw and said he had been blindfolded and rushed first by van, then by helicopter to Kiev international airport.
On Wednesday an opposition leader, who is married to a Dutch woman, arrived in the Netherlands.
Kiev resident Galina Zagoruiko, one of the angry protesters on Sunday, said; “people can’t stand it anymore — that nothing changes and everything just gets worse.”
As many others, she had come to support a political party founded by Saakashvili.
Saakashvili, a former governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, was once an ally of Poroshenko, but then became one of his greatest foes.
Kiev accuses Saakashvili of trying to stage a coup sponsored by allies of former Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych — a charge he strongly denies.
Ukraine stripped Saakashvili of his passport, but he nonetheless continued to challenge the government, organizing frequent protests demanding Poroshenko’s ouster.
With the help of his supporters, he broke through the Polish-Ukrainian border in September last year, and was briefly detained in December in Kiev.
Saakashvili is wanted by the Georgian government on multiple criminal charges, which he says are politically motivated.


Half of Aquarius migrants ‘seek asylum in France’: Spanish govt

Updated 16 min 29 sec ago
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Half of Aquarius migrants ‘seek asylum in France’: Spanish govt

MADRID: Almost half of the 630 migrants that were rescued from the Mediterranean and arrived in Spain’s port of Valencia at the weekend want to seek asylum in France, the Spanish government said Monday.
The migrants arrived in Spain on Sunday in three vessels, including the rescue ship Aquarius, after being turned away by Italy and Malta last week.
“Almost half the migrants have shown their willingness to seek asylum in France, which offered to welcome some of the people traveling on the ship,” Spain’s new socialist government said in a statement.
The majority of the 630 migrants are from Africa, including 450 men and 80 women, of which at least seven are pregnant, as well as 89 adolescents and 11 children under the age of 13, according to the Valencia authorities.
The Aquarius, run by French charity SOS Mediterranee, rescued them off Libya’s coast on June 9 and Italy and Malta’s refusal to let the ship dock led to an international outcry before Spain stepped in to help.
Madrid on Saturday said it had accepted an offer from France — who had angered Rome by branding it irresponsible — to welcome Aquarius migrants who “meet the criteria for asylum.”
France will examine asylum requests from Aquarius migrants who want to come over from Spain on a “case-by-case basis,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Sunday, adding it was “impossible” to know how many will arrive.


Pascal Brice, director-general of France’s refugee protection office Ofpra, told AFP that one of his teams would travel to Valencia soon.
“As soon as the Spanish authorities have informed us of the number of people concerned, a team from Ofpra will go on site to conduct the interviews and ensure that people are covered by the right to asylum,” he said, adding that the process should take place this week.
Local leaders on the French island of Corsica had offered to welcome the Aquarius, but the move was slapped down by the central government, which argued that under international law the ship had to dock at the closest port.
A majority of the French public, 56 percent, back the government’s decision, an opinion poll released Monday showed.
In Spain the migrants were granted authorization to remain in the country for 45 days while each individual’s legal case is studied.
Those who file a demand for asylum will be able to stay in the country while immigration services consider their request, a process that takes up to six months, said Paloma Favieres of the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR).