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Ukraine Charges Its Former Leaders With The Ultimate Crime: Helping Russia

Ukraine's former president Petro Poroshenko has taken refuge in Poland after being accused of treason and cooperation with Russia. It’s a film we’ve seen before in Kyiv.

Photo of former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and his wife Maryna at a rally in Kyiv on Aug. 24

Former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and his wife Maryna in Kyiv on Aug. 24

Anna Akage

KYIV — Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who came to power in 2014 against the backdrop of an emerging war with Russia, has now been accused by Ukrainian authorities of treason — in the service of Russian interests.

Yes, the accusations sound fantastic, as Poroshenko was known for his nationalist stance and tough line against Moscow. Kyiv-based news website Livy Bereg reports that the Ukrainian Attorney General's Office has accused Poroshenko of blocking plans to buy coal from South Africa, thus reinforcing Russia's energy dependence during the difficult first months of the war.

Poroshenko, of course, has been in the opposition since losing his bid for reelection in 2019 to television star Volodymyr Zelensky. And Now Zelensky’s government is going after Poroshenko.

History repeats itself

It seems to be a pattern in Ukrainian politics — not simply accusing one’s predecessor of wrongdoing, but specifically crimes related to coal deals and Russia. Before Poroshenko, it was Yulia Tymoshenko, his main political opponent, who was prosecuted for similar accusations. Poroshenko, who has for the moment taken refuge in Poland, is also not the only ex-president of Ukraine on the run. At the beginning of the war with Russia, the fourth Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, fled the country.

The burgeoning political tradition for each new Ukrainian leader to discover Russian interest in his predecessors is looked at sideways by much of the population. Two sharp opinions — that Poroshenko is a traitor and that Zelensky is targeting him unjustly in order to raise his rating — are bound to add conflict to Ukrainian public life.

In this part of the world, history has a tendency to repeat

According to Zelensky’s Prosecutor General, after Russia seized parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukraine found itself on the brink of an energy crisis, and it was decided to buy coal on the world market, in particular from South Africa. However, Russia set out to thwart this plan to prevent Ukraine from becoming more energy independent. And soon after, according to the accusation, Poroshenko created artificial obstacles to the supply of coal from South Africa.

These contracts were eventually broken, leading to rolling blackouts. Illegal schemes were organized to supply coal from the temporarily occupied territories to Ukrainian state enterprises to bring Ukraine back into the orbit of Russian influence.

Photo of Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych interviewed in Moscow

Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych interviewed in Moscow

Serebryakov Dmitry/TASS/Zuma

A political case​

Poroshenko, who did not appear on Monday to face the accusation in court, has promised to return from Poland in early January. He denies the charges, which he blamed on the current government’s "fall in popularity, and the lack of opportunity to offer something to the society."

Poroshenko's lawyers call the case political and say that "the supply of coal at that time was the only solution that saved Ukraine, which ensured the energy security of the state".

Of course, all of this is playing out as the risk looms of another military conflict with Moscow. Russian daily Kommersant reports that the Kremlin will not pull back its troops from the border as long as NATO continues to bolster its presence in Ukraine. Yes, in this part of the world, history has a tendency to repeat itself.

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Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Noel, a Cuban engineer who had to emigrate to the faraway island of Saint Lucia, tells about the Cuban government's systematic intimidation techniques and coercion of its professionals abroad. He now knows he can never go back to his native island — lest he should never be allowed to leave Cuba again.

Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Next stop, Saint Lucia

Laura Rique Valero

Daniela* was just one year old when she last played with her father. In a video her mother recorded, the two can be seen lying on the floor, making each other laugh.

Three years have passed since then. Daniela's sister, Dunia*, was born — but she has never met her father in person, only connecting through video calls. Indeed, between 2019 and 2023, the family changed more than the two little girls could understand.

"Dad, are you here yet? I'm crazy excited to talk to you."

"Dad, I want you to call today and I'm going to send you a kiss."

"Dad, I want you to come for a long time. I want you to call me; call me, dad."

Three voice messages which Daniela has left her father, one after the other, on WhatsApp this Saturday. His image appears on the phone screen, and the two both light up.

The girls can’t explain what their father looks like in real life: how tall or short or thin he is, how he smells or how his voice sounds — the real one, not what comes out of the speaker. Their version of their dad is limited to a rectangular, digital image. There is nothing else, only distance, and problems that their mother may never share with them.

In 2020, Noel*, the girls' father, was offered a two-to-three-year employment contract on a volcanic island in the Caribbean, some 2,000 kilometers from Cuba. The family needed the money. What came next was never in the plans.

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