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Controversy as SBU claims ex-president’s banned foreign visit had “Russian psy-op risk”

Security Service claims Poroshenko was denied overseas travel because of a purported meeting with Orban; ex-president decries “insane attack on unity”
Poroshenko
Screenshot from broadcast of Poroshenko’s press conference

A controversy is unfolding in Ukraine as former President Petro Poroshenko was stopped at the border as he was heading for a foreign visit.

Ukraine’s Security Service said that Russia planned to use a purported meeting planned during the visit with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for an “information-psychological special operation.”

Meanwhile, Poroshenko claims the travel ban is an  “insane attack on unity” and precluded important meetings with international decision-makers with the aim of securing aid for Ukraine.

What the SBU says

The Ukrainian Security Service claims it obtained counterintelligence about the planned Russian special operation, the goals of which were to “change attitudes in partner countries of the anti-Russian coalition” and “prompt representatives of the Ukrainian political elite to declare narratives about the need for a negotiation process with Russia regarding freezing the war.”

The SBU said Russia planned to actively promote such narratives through pro-Russian political forces abroad and involve “individual Ukrainian politicians during overseas visits” as part of the operation.

It said that the “planned meeting” of Poroshenko with Orban could become part of the plan, as “Orban systematically expresses an anti-Ukrainian position, is Putin’s ‘friend,’ and calls for lifting sanctions on Russia.”

The agency claims that not only Poroshenko’s meeting but other business meetings of Ukrainian politicians with pro-Russian politicians could be used in the Russian psy-ops.

The SBU notes that it appealed to the President’s Office, the Cabinet of Ministers, and Parliament to “consider information about Russia’s plans when organizing and approving foreign trips of Ukrainian delegations.”

This is why the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) First Deputy Speaker Oleksandr Korniyenko canceled Poroshenko’s foreign trip, the SBU says, claiming that the Ukrainian ex-President “was supposed to become a tool in the hands of Russian special services.”

Last night, the SBU had already published a message that it had sent a letter to government agencies with information about the Russian psy-op.

At the time, the agency noted that the information did not concern “any specific representatives of political forces.”

What Poroshenko says

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that in his business trip, he had upcoming meetings scheduled with senior officials in the United States and Polish parliaments.

The US meetings were to be held with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, members of Congress, Pentagon leadership, State Department officials, Congressional committee advisers, national security counselors, and others, Poroshenko said. In the USA, he was to participate in the International Democratic Union Forum.

In Poland, Poroshenko was slated to meet with the Sejm leadership and committees on Euro-integration and foreign affairs.

The aim was discussing military aid, financial assistance, addressing stalled Ukrainian truckers at the Poland border, and Ukraine’s European integration.

However, Poroshenko’s overseas trip was abruptly canceled by border guards the day of departure, 1 December, and he was barred from exiting Ukraine.

Men’s travel from Ukraine is restricted due to the Russian invasion. All officials and MPs of both sexes have to obtain special permits to travel.

“This is an absolutely senseless attack on unity that cannot be understood or explained,” Poroshenko wrote in Telegram. At a press conference in Kyiv, Poroshenko insisted that “this is the return of political repression from the time of Yanukovych.”

Last year,  Poroshenko was also denied an overseas visit.

In May 2022, the former president crossed the border of Ukraine with Poland only on his third attempt. Since then, there have been no scandals with his departure.

Why it matters

Prior to the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022, Poroshenko was the strongest competitor and a bitter rival of current President Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy’s team was accused of initiating politically motivated charges against Poroshenko, which were resultless in court.

Update, 21:00: European Solidarity stated that the SBU’s claim that Poroshenko was to meet with Orban is false, as the Ukrainian politician had plans for traveling only to the USA and Poland.

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