Ukraine dispatch: ex-president Poroshenko returns to Kyiv to face treason charge
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Ukraine dispatch: ex-president Poroshenko returns to Kyiv to face treason charge

Law students in Ukraine are reporting on the latest developments in that country as it faces a series of internal and external challenges. Here Anna Tymoshenko, a fourth-year law student at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, reports from Kyiv.

Monday began in Ukraine with unrest and tension between two political factions, those in support of the current president and those in support of the previous government. That’s because former president Petro Poroshenko returned to the country to face a hearing on pre-trial restrictions in a criminal proceeding against him.

The fifth president of Ukraine has been charged with treason and aiding terrorism. According to an official investigation, Poroshenko in 2014 conspired with pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk and others to organize coal supplies from eastern areas of Ukraine not controlled by the Ukrainian government (the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic”).

Poroshenko left the country shortly after the case was opened, claiming it was a business trip. Poroshenko’s assets were frozen by the court on January 6 while he was abroad. However, when he was first summoned for questioning in 2019, his most valuable and profitable assets (Roshen Confectionery Corporation and agribusiness) were conveniently transferred to Petro Poroshenko’s eldest son Oleksiy.

After arriving at Kyiv Airport today, Poroshenko  was confronted by authorities at passport control. According to the State Bureau of Investigation, he refused to receive procedural documents, ignoring the investigator’s legal demands. Poroshenko later said he was detained for 15 minutes and was not served with a suspicion notice. He delivered a speech to his supporters on a specially pre-constructed stage at the airport. As reported by Slovo i Dilo, 3,000 people came from the regions to Kyiv to take part in this rally.

Another group of supporters had already gathered near the Kyiv Pechersk District Court, which is well-known for judges who, through their decisions, have helped participants in high-profile criminal investigations avoid responsibility. In front of the court, where Poroshenko’s supporters chanted anti-governmental slogans (or rather anti-Zelensky slogans against the current Ukrainian president), drummed, and sang, the ex-president gave yet another speech about political persecution of opponents, and went to the courtroom.

It is worth noting that Judge Oleksiy Sokolov of the Kyiv Pechersk District Court is an investigating judge in this case. He was appointed to the post by Poroshenko in 2017, but the Public Integrity Council found him unfit for office two years later. The judge repeatedly missed deadlines for submitting court decisions to the Unified State Register; wrote his decisions in Russian in violation of language law requirements; failed to declare his property on time; and is well-known for making dubious decisions in favor of the judiciary. Furthermore, Sokolov has not yet passed the qualification assessment required by judicial reform.

The hearing lasted more than five hours, including breaks. The prosecutor’s office requested that Poroshenko be held in custody with the possibility of bail of 1 billion hryvnias (nearly $35.5 million). According to the politician’s defense, he has not been properly served with the notice and thus cannot be considered a suspect in the case. As a result, the defense stressed that no pre-trial restriction could be imposed.

Supporters of the former president blocked the exit from the Pechersk court, but they cheered each other up by singing carols under the courtroom windows.

Following the presentation of both counsels’ arguments, the judge entered the deliberation room and remained there for nearly five hours. Unfortunately, uncertainty continues, as after hours of waiting, the hearing was rescheduled for January 19.