Several thousand protesters gathered in central Kyiv on the evening of Dec. 1 to demand President Volodymyr Zelensky’s resignation over what they see as his concessions to the Kremlin.
The protesters zeroed in on Zelensky’s statement earlier the same day that he’s not afraid of direct negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end Russia’s war in the Donbas. Zelensky made his comments as part of his annual address in parliament.
Demonstrators also lambasted Zelensky for the foiled operation to capture 33 Russian Wagner Group mercenaries in 2020. The militants were reportedly lured to Belarus by the Ukrainian intelligence which intended to capture the mercenaries by forcing their plane to land in Ukraine while en route from Minsk to Istanbul.
Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak reportedly delayed the operation by several days, soon after which it failed. According to Vasyl Burba, the former head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, Yermak said he was acting on Zelensky’s orders. Yermak denied the allegations.
The president’s office has been changing its narrative about the Wagner operation. First, they denied its existence. Later, Zelensky said he knew and disapproved of the operation.
The protesters also demanded the dismissal of Yermak and two other top officials: deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Ruslan Demchenko, whom they accuse of being pro-Kremlin, and Oleh Tatarov, a bribery suspect and former top police officer under pro-Kremlin ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. The protesters also called for early parliamentary elections.
The protest was attended by the far-right organization National Corps, ex-President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party and the Democratic Axe party.
The date of the rally had been scheduled at a previous anti-Zelensky protest a week ago.
On Nov. 26, the president said that the Kremlin is preparing a coup scheduled for Dec. 1 or 2 and claimed that there are audio recordings of Ukrainians and Russians discussing oligarch Rinat Akhmetov’s alleged participation.