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Ukraine's Security Service Warns Of Potential Violence; Saakashvili Pledges Peaceful Protest

Saakshvili Calls For 'Calm And Peaceful' Protest In Kyiv
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KYIV -- Ukraine's main security agency has claimed it averted potential violence planned during a protest in front of the country's parliament, an action organized by controversial firebrand politician Mikheil Saakashvili.

A former Georgian president who has been stripped of both his Georgian and Ukrainian citizenship, Saakashvili had called for the October 17 rally in a speech he gave last month in the Black Sea port of Odesa, where he was once governor.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on October 16 that "armed provocations" were planned for the protest, and agents had thwarted an effort by two former activists of the "Revolutionary Rightist Forces" to acquire automatic weapons and rocket launchers to be used during the rally.

Speaking to RFE/RL, Saakashvili did not comment on the SBU announcement, but pledged the demonstration would be peaceful.

"People who come tomorrow to the Verkhovna Rada, they are tuned peacefully, calmly, decisively...we just have to show that we are a calm force," Saakashvili said, referring to Ukraine's parliament.

"I think this is just the beginning of a great process. People must come to say that nobody will talk to us like explain that we are not goats, that we have our rights and dignity," he said.

Saakashvili was previously an ally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who in 2015 appointed him governor of Odesa, Ukraine's largest Black Sea port and a hub of commerce for the country.

But Saakashvili resigned in November 2016, complaining of rampant corruption and he has turned his outspoken rhetoric on Poroshenko and his allies.

In July, Poroshenko stripped him of the Ukrainian citizenship he was granted when he became Odesa's governor.

Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship when he took Ukrainian in 2015, and the authorities in Tbilisi have also begun criminal proceedings against him.

Last month, he forced his way across the Polish border into Ukraine, defying border guards and vowing to reenter Ukrainian politics. Authorities have not moved to arrest him, a decision reflecting Saakashvili's continuing popularity in some parts of the country.

Saakashvili said supporters from four other political blocs -- Self-Help, Democratic Alliance, Automaidan, and Svoboda -- were also expected to attend the Kyiv demonstration, which will call for the creation of anticorruption courts, the abolition of parliamentary immunity, and a revamping of the country's electoral legislation.