The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko speaking before the country's parliament, Verkhovna Rada (Photo: The Ukrainian Presidential Administration)

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko speaking before the country's parliament, Verkhovna Rada (Photo: The Ukrainian Presidential Administration, 2019) 

Ukraine

Ukraine’s fifth president Petro Poroshenko has been charged with state treason and aiding terrorist organizations. This is the latest of a string of criminal cases opened against the former president by the team of Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The notice of suspicion, signed by the deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko, was delivered to Poroshenko’s residence while the ex-president was abroad on 20 December.

According to the State Bureau of Investigation, Poroshenko is suspected of facilitating the activities of the terrorist organizations “Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics” (“LDNR”), acting under a conspiracy of a group of individuals which included representatives of the top leadership of the Russian Federation.

He is charged under three articles of the Criminal Code: financing terrorism, state treason, and aiding the activities of terrorist organizations. If found guilty, Poroshenko could face 15 years of jail with possible confiscation of property.

I.e., Poroshenko and the other defendants are suspected of buying coal from the self-proclaimed Russian-backed statelets in eastern Ukraine at public expense.

“The investigation believes that, by their actions, the participants in the proceedings made the energy sector of Ukraine dependent on the Russian Federation and terrorist organizations,” the State Bureau of Investigation said.

These territories had been responsible for most of Ukraine's anthracite coal production, which feeds half of the power plants in Ukraine. Following a coal blockade, the occupation of Donbas by Russia in 2014-2015 led to an acute anthracite shortage. Meanwhile, the "LDNR" attempted various means to export anthracite abroad, with reports existing about the sale of coal from occupied Donbas to Poland.

On 17 December, the State Bureau of Investigation attempted to hand Poroshenko a summons in this case, but he ignored the investigators and drove away.

And on November 12, Volodymyr Demchyshyn former Minister of Energy and Coal Industry was also charged in this case. He is accused of organizing illegal coal supplies from the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas.

The investigation claims that in order to create the appearance of legitimacy of the scheme, the then Minister ordered changes to the legal addresses of these companies and appoint representatives of LNR and DNR as their leaders.

On Demchyshyn's instructions, Ukraine's major state energy company Tsentrenergo allegedly entered into coal supply agreements with the enterprises of the "LDNR." Allegedly, UAH 200 mn ($7.3 mn) of state funds were paid to them as a result.

On 8 October 2021, similar charges of state treason and financing terrorism were also pressed against the pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, one of the leaders of the "Opposition Platform - For Life" and Russian President Vladimir Putin's compadre. The Security Service of Ukraine accuses the politician of helping to organize illegal schemes to supply coal from the occupied territories of Donbas to state-owned enterprises of Ukraine.

The SBU has released audio recordings of people with voices similar to Viktor Medvedchuk and Dmitry Kozak, deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, discussing the signing of coal contracts. A voice similar to Medvedchuk repeatedly mentions the name of Petro Poroshenko.

As early as 2016, journalists had reported about a scheme through which Viktor Medvedchuk and his Ukrainian business associate Taras Kozak had illegally imported coal from the "LDNR" into Ukraine.

Where Putin’s media-wielding men in Ukraine get their money

Medvedchuk has denied all allegations of terrorist financing against him and his associates.

Poroshenko's defense and associates have dismissed the charges as fabricated.

Oleksandr Turchynov, head of the European Solidarity headquarters, said that the new case against Petro Poroshenko had been fabricated and that the politician would be interrogated when he returned to Ukraine.

Poroshenko is currently abroad, where he is scheduled to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and European leaders.

"I want to tell the current government - don't get your hopes up. After the meetings and vacation Poroshenko will return to Ukraine and your next business, another show, like the previous ones, will turn into a farce," said Turchynov.

This is not the first criminal case against the former Ukrainian President. Since Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to power in 2019, his team has opened a string of cases against Poroshenko -- twenty as of 2020. Some criminal cases against Poroshenko were closed, with investigators reporting political pressure during the investigation.

Poroshenko's supporters view the cases opened against the former Ukrainian president as Zelenskyy's political retribution.

Investigator closes a criminal case against Poroshenko, denouncing political pressure

In 2020, Poroshenko was charged with abuse of power while appointing the deputy head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine. The accusation has no clear grounds since according to Ukrainian law, such an appointment is under the direct purview of the president. Since then, the case has not moved forward.

On 8 July 2020, thousands of Poroshenko's supporters showed up at the court where hearings in this case were to take place. No restrictive measures were applied on this date.

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