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Ukraine: Ex-leader to return amid charges of treason

January 16, 2022

Petro Poroshenko, the former president of Ukraine, is to return to Kyiv amid the looming threat of Russian aggression. Critics have questioned the timing of the move.

Ukrainian ex-President Petro Poroshenko
Ex-President Petro Poroshenko has said he is not worried about the threat of arrest on returning to KyivImage: Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Ukraine's former president, Petro Poroshenko, said on Sunday that he is planning on returning to the country despite facing charges of treason.

Poroshenko is being investigated over an alleged link to the financing of Russian-backed separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine through the illegal sale of coal during his time in office.

The former president denies the allegations and has said that they were put together by allies of the current president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He appeared confident that he would not be detained.

"If you ask me if I will be arrested, definitely not. I return to Ukraine to fight for Ukraine, not to fight with Zelenskyy," Poroshenko told reporters in Warsaw.

Political rivals

Critics have called the timing of Poroshenko's planned return a distraction from the threat of a Russian invasion.

His arrival is seen as potentially sparking a showdown with his successor who won in a landslide victory against him in 2019, winning on a pledge to tackle corruption and take on the influence of oligarchs.

Prosecutors asked a court in December to issue an arrest warrant for Poroshenko. The court froze his assets in early January.

Zelenskyy's administration has tried to distance itself from the accusations against the ex-president.

His chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, rejected the claim that Zelenskyy was going down the same path as the Russian-backed former president, Viktor Yanukovich, who had his political rival Yulia Tymoshenko jailed in 2010.

Calls for internal unity

Western diplomats have called for unity among various Ukrainian factions due to the looming threat from the 100,000 Russian soldiers gathered at the Ukrainian border.

"At this time more than ever it seems to me that all political leaders in #ukraine need to show unity, avoiding actions that may polarise," Melinda Simmons, the British ambassador to Ukraine, said in a tweet on Saturday.

Poroshenko himself is one of Ukraine's richest citizens. He first came to power after the 2014 Maidan Street protests with a pro-western agenda.

His return to Kyiv will coincide with the arrival of Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock as she visits both Ukrainian and Russian leaders in an attempt to pursue further, so far unfruitful, negotiations.

ab/fb (Reuters, AP)