From the airport to the courtroom Ukraine’s former president Poroshenko returns to the country, faces arrest on treason charges

Petro Poroshenko greets his supporters after arriving at Kyiv’s Zhuliany Airport. January 17, 2022.Efrem Lukatsky / AP / Scanpix / LETA

On the morning of Monday, January 17, Ukraine’s former president, lawmaker Petro Poroshenko, arrived in Kyiv after spending nearly a month abroad. An estimated 3,000–4,000 people met him at Kyiv’s Zhuliany Airport; some of his supporters carried Ukrainian flags and posters with pro-Poroshenko slogans. At passport control, Poroshenko was met by officials from Ukraine’s State Investigation Bureau. His passport was taken away for around 15 minutes, but then returned to him. The state investigators attempted to serve Poroshenko with a subpoena but he refused to take the document. Poroshenko then proceeded to hold an impromptu rally, addressing his supporters gathered outside the airport and urging them to support him in court. 

Petro Poroshenko at passport control at Kyiv’s Zhuliany Airport. January 17, 2022. Petro Poroshenko at passport control at Kyiv’s Zhuliany Airport. January 17, 2022. Gleb Garanich / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Poroshenko is facing charges of high treason, facilitating the activities of a terrorist organization, and financing terrorism. Ukraine’s State Investigation Bureau charged the former president on December 20. At the time, Poroshenko was in Warsaw, having left Ukraine after detectives tried to serve him a summons outside of the parliament building in Kyiv on December 17. Poroshenko has denied any wrongdoing, calling the charges fabricated.

Poroshenko stands accused of conspiring to supply Ukraine with coal from the breakaway territories in the country’s east, the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” (the DNR and LNR) controlled by Russian-backed separatists. This allegedly took place when he was president in 2014–2015. Poroshenko’s lawyer, Ilya Novikov, has maintained that this was “a legal and, at the time, the only possible scheme for the supply of coal from state mines from the occupied territories.”

Ukrainian investigators claim that Poroshenko conspired with a group of people, including “representatives of the top leadership of the Russian Federation, [who] assisted the activities of the terrorist organizations LNR and DNR.” The case includes other high-profile suspects, namely Viktor Medvedchuk — a pro-Russian lawmaker and media tycoon known for his close ties to Vladimir Putin — and Volodymyr Demchyshyn, who was Ukraine’s energy minister under Poroshenko in 2014–2016. 

about the case against Medvedchuk

Indicting Putin’s ally Ukraine charges pro-Kremlin oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk with high treasonWhat’s treason in Ukraine today? The case against Viktor Medvedchuk

In January 2022, a Kyiv district court ruled to seize Poroshenko’s assets, including apartments in Kyiv and Vinnytsia, as well as an estate in Kozyn (Kyiv region), plots of land, and shares in private companies. 

Poroshenko went directly from the airport to an arraignment hearing at Kyiv’s Pechersk District Court. Prosecutors have asked the court to arrest the former president and set bail at 1 billion hryvnias (more than $35 million). The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office announced plans to petition for Poroshenko’s arrest back in December. 

Upon arriving at his arraignment hearing, Poroshenko discovered that he had been assigned a public defense attorney. The former president’s lawyers, Ihor Holovan and Ilya Novikov, were also present in the courtroom. The hearing was briefly adjourned to allow Poroshenko’s lawyers to familiarize themselves with the case materials, after the former president’s representatives claimed that their client never received a notice of suspicion. Prosecutors maintained that Poroshenko was notified by mail.

At the time of writing, the judge has yet to render a decision on the measures of restraint. Sources from Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party told Ukrayinska Pravda that the arraignment hearing could drag on for two or three days. 

Update. After five hours of deliberations on Monday, the court announced that Petro Poroshenko’s arraignment hearing would resume on Wednesday, January 19. On Wednesday, the court opted against placing Petro Poroshenko in pre-trial detention. The former president was released on his own recognizance and will have to surrender his international passport.

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Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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