Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arrived back in Ukraine on Monday to fight treason charges.
Speaking at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, hours before his departure for Kyiv, Poroshenko claimed the charges were politically motivated.
A prosecutor has alleged Poroshenko, one of Ukraine’s richest businessmen, was involved in the sale of large amounts of coal that helped finance Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014-15.
He is the owner of the Roshen confectionery empire.
The Kyiv court has already frozen Poroshenko’s assets as part of its investigation into the allegations of high treason.
Poroshenko insists he is innocent.
He accuses his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, of seeking to discredit him politically to distract from Ukraine’s widespread problems, including economic woes and rising deaths from COVID-19.
“I will return to Ukraine to fight for Ukraine,” Poroshenko said on Sunday, adding that he considers fighting the “politically motivated” charges to be part of his patriotic fight for the nation.
Poroshenko was elected in the first round of snap elections in 2014, just two months after the Maidan revolution ousted Viktor Yanukovych from office. He lost to Zelenskyy in a run-off in 2019.
Nicknamed the “Chocolate King”, Poroshenko sold two television channels he owned in November 2021 following the introduction of a new bill, dubbed the “anti-oligarchs law”.
The government said the law aimed to curb the political influence of oligarchs and tackle corruption. Poroshenko, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes to be at $1.6 billion (€1.4 billion), has denounced it as an attack against freedom of the press.
The charges against Poroshenko have generated concerns of undemocratic score-settling in Ukraine and also alarmed Ukraine’s allies. They come as Russia has built up troops along the Ukraine border and the United States has voiced concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin might be planning an invasion of Ukraine.
Poroshenko said he sees charges he faces as harmful for the country at such a time. He said Ukraine’s leadership is responsible for national unity, and what “Russia is really looking for is disintegration and conflict inside the country.”
“I think this is a very irresponsible action of the current leadership to disintegrate the country and ruin the unity,” he said.