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Poroshenko returns to Ukraine, faces possible arrest

January 17, 2022 10:34 amby Olga Rudenko
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Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks to his supporters after he arrives in Kyiv on Jan. 17. (Mikhail Palinchak)

Ex-President Petro Poroshenko returned to Ukraine on Jan. 17 after a one-month absence. He is facing arrest in a treason case.

Poroshenko left Ukraine promptly on Dec. 18, after the State Investigation Bureau detectives tried to hand him a summons. Two days later, he was charged with high treason.

Poroshenko is suspected of conspiring to supply coal from the Russian-occupied territories in Eastern Ukraine when he was president. Top pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk allegedly participated in the scheme.

The accusations are especially sensitive for Poroshenko, who has positioned himself as extremely hawkish on Russia since the start of its war against Ukraine in 2014.

Poroshenko has denied all charges, and said that his absence from Ukraine was a planned trip, not an escape. He said that the case against him was politically motivated and personally ordered by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Now that Poroshenko is back in Ukraine, having landed in Kyiv's Zhulyany Airport at 9:10 a.m. on a flight from Warsaw, he will likely be brought to court by force to have his pre-trial restriction determined.

At the hearing, prosecutors will reportedly ask the court to arrest Poroshenko and set the bail at $37 million.

If they succeed, Poroshenko will become Ukraine's first-ever ex-president to be arrested. His predecessor Viktor Yanukovych was tried and convicted in absentia for unleashing violence on anti-government protesters during the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution.

If the court determines that Poroshenko isn't a flight risk or a threat to investigation, he can end up under house arrest, like Medvedchuk.

Poroshenko and Zelensky have clashed fiercely ever since Zelensky defeated Poroshenko in the 2019 election. After his defeat, Poroshenko was elected into parliament, where he leads the 27-member European Solidarity faction, and has since led a fierce campaign of criticism against Zelensky. Zelensky, in his turn, has accused Poroshenko of "pretending that he was still president."

Speaking in Warsaw on Jan. 16 before flying to Kyiv, Poroshenko said that Zelensky is going after him to help his falling ratings and to distract the public from problems in the energy sector.

Ukraine has been experiencing coal shortages for the last several months, forcing the country to step up electricity imports.

Poroshenko's supporters filled the airport and the arrival area outside the airport on the morning of Jan. 17, welcoming the ex-President and protesting his prosecution.

Olga Rudenko
Author: Olga Rudenko

Olga Rudenko is the chief editor of the Kyiv Independent, an award-winning media start-up launched in November 2021 by the former editorial team of the Kyiv Post. Olga is the former deputy chief editor of the Kyiv Post. She has written for global publications, and was a fellow at the Chicago Booth School of Business in 2021.

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