In February 2014, mass protests in Kiev’s Independence Square paved the way for revolution: disgraced President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from office and fresh elections brought a wave of promise. Petro Poroshenko was hailed as the country’s new hope, a reformer with aims of fixing a system that was corrupt to its core.
But four years on, that hope has largely faded. The World Bank, the IMF, the EU and the U.S. have all expressed concern that Poroshenko is dragging his feet when it comes to tackling corruption head on. And the voters aren't happy either — Poroshenko’s approval ratings are in the basement and the growing disquiet about him has started to spill onto the streets.
December saw a fresh round of anti-corruption demonstrations in the capital of Kiev. They are led by an unlikely figure: the former President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili.
Saakashvili is an unsuspecting politician to lead Ukraine's anti-corruption movement: he’s the subject of an extradition request from Georgian authorities in Tbilisi, where he's been convicted of corruption while in office. But in Ukraine, he's remade himself as an anti-oligarch rabble rouser, and, more recently, an opponent to Poroshenko.
"I must free Ukraine with your help," Saakashvili told a crowd of several thousand on a cold December afternoon in central Kiev. "To free it from profiteers, from corrupt officials and oligarchs!"
This segment originally aired on January 24, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.