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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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