Ex-president returns to Ukraine for treason trial: NPR
KYIV, Ukraine — Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko returned to Ukraine on Monday to face court on charges of treason he believes are politically motivated.
At Kiev airport, where he arrived Monday morning on a flight from Warsaw, Poroshenko was greeted by several thousand enthusiastic supporters. Some carried banners reading “We need democracy” and “Stop the repressions”.
From the airport, Poroshenko headed straight for the court, which will rule on his remand in custody pending investigation and trial.
A prosecutor has alleged that Poroshenko, owner of the Roshen confectionery empire and one of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen, was involved in selling large amounts of coal that helped fund backed separatists by Russia in eastern Ukraine in 2014-15.
Poroshenko’s assets have been frozen as part of his investigation into the high treason allegations. The former leader of Ukraine faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Poroshenko insists he is innocent. He accuses his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, of seeking to discredit him politically to distract from Ukraine’s widespread problems, including economic hardship and rising deaths from COVID-19.
The charges are the latest in a string of accusations against Poroshenko since he was beaten by Zelensky in 2019. The allegations have raised concerns about an undemocratic settling of scores in Ukraine and also alarmed allies of the ‘Ukraine. They come as Russia has been building up troops along the Ukrainian border and the United States has expressed concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be planning an invasion of Ukraine.
Poroshenko was beaten by voters following a corruption scandal and a mixed record on reforms, but emerged with strong patriotic credentials for his work rebuilding Ukraine’s military as it was fighting Russian-backed insurgent fighters in the east.
Zelensky says he leads a fight against the oligarchs which aims to reduce their influence in the political and economic life of Ukraine.
Poroshenko has been out of Ukraine for weeks, meeting with leaders in Brussels, Berlin and other European capitals.
Outside Kiev airport on Monday, the ex-president greeted a large crowd of his supporters and delivered an elaborate speech, urging them to follow him to the courthouse. He called the charges against him “a challenge for all of us”.
“(The authorities) set us back 10 years. We are not here to defend Poroshenko, we are here to join forces and defend Ukraine,” Poroshenko said. “A united Ukraine is strong, and a strong Ukraine is capable of repelling (against) Putin.”
His supporters also viewed the charges against him as politically motivated. “This is revenge by the authorities and an attempt by Zelensky to eliminate his biggest Ukrainian political rival,” Anton Ivashchenko, 42, told The Associated Press at the airport. “Poroshenko’s persecution is sowing animosity and discord among those pushing for…closer ties between Ukraine and the West.”