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Poroshenko returns to Ukraine to face treason charges

January 17, 2022

The billionaire ex-president said he returned to fight the charges and help protect Ukraine. After appearing in court, prosecutors set bail at $35 million. Poroshenko could face 15 years in prison if convicted.

Petro Poroshenko stands at an airport in Poland ahead of his return to Ukraine
Petro Poroshenko arrived in Ukraine on Monday to face the charges against him, which he says are politically motivatedImage: Irina Polina/TASS/picture alliance

Ukraine's former President Petro Poroshenko returned to Kyiv on Monday to stand trial for treason in his country.

After flying out of Warsaw Chopin Airport in Poland, he had a brief standoff with border patrol officers but later left the airport. Ukrainian investigators said the border officers tried to serve a subpoena to the former president, but he refused to take the documents.

As the former leader emerged outside the airport, he was greeted by thousands of his supporters. Some of them were waving the Ukrainian flag, while other carried posters and banners that read: "We need democracy," "Stop repressions" and "Hands off Poroshenko."

"We are not here to protect Poroshenko, but to unite and protect Ukraine," he told the crowd. "Now I'm heading to the court where we'll give them a fight."

Poroshenko headed straight straight to court after arrival. There prosecutors requested the ex-president pay 1 billion hryvnia ($35 million) in bail and wear an electronic tracing bracelet. 

What are the charges against him?

Poroshenko, a confectionery tycoon and one of Ukraine's richest businessmen, is facing allegations of treason dating from his time in office.

He served as president between 2014 and 2019.

Prosecutors allege that while in office, he was involved in the illegal sale of large amounts of coal that helped finance Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

His assets have been frozen as part of its investigation. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Poroshenko insists that he is innocent and that the charges against him are trumped up by allies of his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy in an attempt to discredit him.

When asked on the kind of sentence Poroshenko could face if convicted, DW correspondent Mathias Bölinger said that although the maximum sentence is 15 years, it is nonetheless "very hard to know whether a deal is possible and how good the evidence is."

"Right now the court has to decide whether he will remain in custody or whether he will walk free, on bail for example," Bölinger told DW.

Tetiana Sapyan, a spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigations (DBR), said at a briefing that Poroshenko had been handed a summons to appear in court on Monday.

Sapyan said that Poroshenko had "refused to receive procedural documents" and "ignored the legal requirements of the investigator."

"At the same time, the persons who were with him carried out physical resistance, which was recorded on video recordings," she added.

Why did he return?

Poroshenko said that he wanted to return to Ukraine to fight the case against him. He also said he wanted to protect the ex-Soviet country from a possible Russian invasion.

He accused Zelenskiyy of not doing enough to secure the country's borders and offered to help the government.

"We are ready to help the authorities. We are ready to share our thoughts and advice," the ex-president said in a video message prior to his arrival.

He added that his party, the opposition European Solidarity, would support "all initiatives aimed at strengthening the defense potential of our state and the European direction of our country."

Poroshenko's presidency came after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and fighting escalated between Kyiv troops and Moscow-backed separatists in the east of the country.

His return comes at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, which Kyiv has accused of amassing troops along the border in preparation for a possible invasion.

sdi, adi/rs (Reuters, AP)

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