Former Ukraine President, Petro Poroshenko has landed in Kyiv on Monday, January 17, 2022, to face treason charges levelled against him in a case he says was orchestrated by allies of his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
In a brief stand-off at border control after arriving on a flight from Warsaw, he accused the border guards of taking away his passport. He was later greeted by a crowd of flag-waving supporters outside the airport.
In a short speech to the crowd, he called the charges against him “a challenge to all of us. (The authorities) are setting us back 10 years. We’re here not to defend Poroshenko, we’re here to join forces and defend Ukraine,” Poroshenko said. “United Ukraine is strong, and a strong Ukraine is capable of pushing back Putin.”
His supporters believe the charges against him are politically motivated and it is a revenge of the authorities and an attempt by Zelenskiy to eliminate his biggest rival in Ukraine’s politics, Anton Ivashchenko.
Western diplomats have also called for political unity in Ukraine ahead of Poroshenko’s arrival.
Poroshenko is being investigated for alleged treason linked to the financing of Russian-backed separatist fighters through illegal coal sales while in office between 2014-15. His party accused Zelenskiy of a reckless attempt to silence political opposition.
The charges are the latest in a string of accusations levelled against Poroshenko since he was defeated by Zelenskiy in 2019. The allegations have generated concerns of undemocratic score-settling in Ukraine and also alarmed the country’s allies.
They come as Russia has built up troops along the border and the US has voiced concerns that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, might be planning an invasion of Ukraine.
Poroshenko was defeated by voters after a corruption scandal and a mixed record on reforms, but he emerged with strong patriotic credentials for his work in rebuilding the Ukrainian army as it fought Russian-backed insurgent fighters in the east.
In addition to the ongoing prosecution, Poroshenko’s assets have been frozen as part of its investigation into the allegations of high treason. He will face up to a period of 15 years in prison if convicted.
Poroshenko insists he is innocent. However, he accused his successor, Volodymyr Zelenskiy of seeking to discredit him politically to distract from Ukraine’s widespread problems, including economic woes and rising deaths from COVID-19.
Response from Zelenskiy and the DBR
According to Zelenskiy’s administration, the prosecutors and judiciary are independent and have accused Poroshenko of thinking he is above the law.
At a briefing, spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigations (DBR), Tetiana Sapyan, said Poroshenko had been handed a summons to appear in court later on Monday, January 17, 2022.
“However, Petro Poroshenko refused to receive procedural documents, ignored the legal requirements of the investigator, and at the same time, the persons who were with him carried out physical resistance, which was recorded on video recordings.”
Ukraine and its allies have sounded the alarm about tens of thousands of Russian troops massed near its borders.
After days of diplomacy, last week achieved no breakthrough, the United States government on Friday, January 14, 2022, said that Russia was preparing a pretext for an attack, something the Kremlin dismissed as “unfounded”.