Publicly charged with high treason on December 20, former President Petro Poroshenko has been abroad since then and is currently still in Warsaw. Kyiv’s Pechersk Court ruled in absentia on January 6 that Poroshenko’s assets should be seized, including real estate and corporate assets. Subsequently, the State Investigation Bureau declared that the former president failed to appear in Court and stated its readiness to take any measure on the day of Poroshenko’s return, announced for January 17, at 9 a.m. Kyiv time. According to Hromadske, he will most likely be detained at the airport and face house arrest.
Poroshenko’s lawyer has denounced the “pathetic liars” from the State Investigation Bureau, arguing that he has not received any official court summons. From the beginning, the former head of state has denied any wrongdoing and has called the lawsuit political persecution.
This case is intrinsically linked to the lawsuit filed against pro-Russian oligarch and fallen media tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk, who has been under house arrest since May 11, 2021. Together with former energy minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn, both are accused of being involved in a business scheme designed to supply UAH1.5bn ($55mn) worth of coal to state-owned enterprises from the separatist territories of Donbas in 2014-2015.
The current offensive against Poroshenko and Medvedchuk was unleashed after President Zelenskiy declaring his intention to fight against Ukraine’s oligarchs. On November 5, 2021, the president signed a law on “de-oligarchisation,” establishing a special registry for the dozen or so people who meet the official criteria to be deemed oligarchs.
While it is yet unclear who will be included on this list, there are few doubts that the courts will loosen the pressure on Petro Poroshenko. However, according to political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko, the lawsuit will likely be dragged out for at least another year. If convicted, Poroshenko will face up to 15 years in prison for treason, financing terrorism and supporting the activities of a “terrorist organisation.”
According to The Kyiv Independent, “dozens of investigations” involving Poroshenko have been ongoing since the 2019 election. He has been charged in only two of them: the current treason case and for abuse of office in June 2020. However, the latter case appears to have stalled.
This article originally appeared in FPRI's BMB XXX newsletter. Click here to learn more about BMB XXX and subscribe to the newsletter.