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Ex-Ukraine president accused of helping pro-Russian separatists in treason charges

The country’s former president is a suspect in a treason investigation.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

UKRAINE’S FORMER PRESIDENT Petro Poroshenko has criticised new treason charges brought against him.

Kiev’s Western allies urged a fair and transparent probe in a country struggling with systemic corruption.

The 56-year-old ex-leader was named yesterday as a suspect in a treason investigation and stands accused of helping pro-Russian separatists who control large areas of the east of the ex-Soviet country sell coal to Kiev.

The state investigation bureau said it suspected Poroshenko of aiding the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to sell some 1.5 billion hryvnia ($54 million) worth of coal to Kiev in 2014-2015.

Poroshenko said on Facebook that the charges “cross a red line”, calling on Ukrainians instead to “save Ukraine and repel Russian aggression”.

“Together to victory, and see you in Ukraine,” the former leader, who is currently in neighbouring Poland, said, vowing to return in January.

Western embassies said today they were following the proceedings and urged an independent trial.

“The United States is closely following the case against former President Poroshenko,” the US embassy in Ukraine said.

It said that it is “crucial that process and outcome be based on the rule of law, not politics”.

UK ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons echoed the point, writing on Twitter that it was “vital” that the case be tackled “independently, impartially and professionally, ensuring fairness and respect for due process”.

The authorities have opened dozens of cases against Poroshenko after he was trounced in a presidential election by Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian with no previous political experience, in April 2019.

Zelensky has pledged to root out corruption and investigate officials from the previous administration.

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Poroshenko would face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Although Poroshenko pivoted the ex-Soviet country closer to the West during his term as president, critics accuse him of having failed to tackle corruption and poverty.

Ukraine has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014.

The fighting has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of sending troops and arms across the border, something the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

© AFP 2021

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