BusinessDay

Ex-Ukrainian president ready to appear in court

Petro Poroshenko, the former Ukrainian president has returned to Ukraine on Monday, January 17, 2022, to face court on treason charges he believes are politically motivated.

According to the Associated Press, Poroshenko was greeted by several thousand cheering supporters at the Kyiv airport, where he arrived on a flight from Warsaw. The report stated that some of the supporters were seen carrying banners with inscriptions, “We need democracy,” and “stop repressions.”

The former president headed straight from the airport to court, which will rule on whether to remand him in custody pending investigation and trial.

Poroshenko, who is also the owner of the Roshen confectionery empire and one of Ukraine’s richest businessmen, was accused of being involved in the sale of large amounts of coal that helped finance Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014-15.

The former president’s assets have been frozen as part of its investigation into the allegations of high treason. Poroshenko will face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

However, he insists that he is innocent. He accuses his successor, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the incumbent president of seeking to discredit him politically to distract from Ukraine’s widespread problems, including economic woes and rising deaths from COVID-19.

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The charges are the latest in a string of accusations levelled against Poroshenko since he was defeated by Zelenskyy in 2019. The allegations have generated concerns of undemocratic score-settling in Ukraine and also alarmed Ukraine’s allies. They come as Russia has built up troops along the Ukraine border and the United States has voiced concerns that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, might be planning an invasion of Ukraine.

Poroshenko was defeated by voters following 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.

Zelenskyy says he is waging a fight against oligarchs that is aimed at reducing their influence in Ukraine’s political and economic life.

Poroshenko has been outside of Ukraine for weeks, meeting with leaders in Brussels, Berlin, and other European capitals.

His supporters believe that the charges against him are politically motivated.

According to Anton Ivashchenko, one of Poroshenko supporters, “It is a revenge of the authorities and an attempt by Zelenskyy to eliminate his biggest rival in Ukraine’s politics. Persecution of Poroshenko sows animosity and discord among those who push for Ukraine’s closer ties with the West.”

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