KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian authorities on Monday notified the country's former president that he is suspected of high treason and “aiding terrorist organizations” in Ukraine's eastern separatist territories.
A statement by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) of Ukraine said the former President Petro Poroshenko is suspected of facilitating the activities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics — the two pro-Russia separatist governments in the eastern rebel area — by having his government buy coal from the separatist territories in 2014-2015.
Poroshenko, 56, served as Ukraine’s fifth president from 2014 to 2019 until losing in an election to the current president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Poroshenko faces up to 15 years in prison with confiscation of property if found guilty.
The suspicions regarding the former president’s involvement in the case have been dismissed by the European Solidarity party, which is headed by Poroshenko.
“The actions of law enforcement agencies have nothing to do with law, this is a political order of Zelenskyy, who is maniacally obsessed with the idea of reprisals against his main opponent,” the party said in a statement.
According to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Irina Venediktova, the amount spent by Ukrainian state-owned enterprises for the purchase of coal is more than 200 million hryvnia (about $ 7.6 million).
Poroshenko became the fourth suspect in the coal scandal. Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform - For Life, is accused of allegedly acting as an intermediary in the purchases and has been under house arrest for six months. Russian President Vladimir Putin is the godfather to Medvedchuk's youngest daughter.
Ukraine faced an acute shortage of resources after separatists backed by Russia seized the territory on which the country's main coal mines were located. The authorities accused Medvedchuk of conspiring with officials under the Poroshenko administration to purchase coal from mines in separatist-controlled areas in 2014-2015 as a way to finance the separatists. Russia has denied actively supporting the separatists.
Ukraine's ex-minister of energy, Vladimir Demchishin, and businessman Sergei Kuzyara are also involved in the case.
Poroshenko is visiting Turkey. The investigators attempted to hand him a summons on the eve of his departure but were unable to do so. His lawyer, Ilya Novikov, said that Poroshenko has been summoned for questioning on Dec. 23.
It is not clear when Poroshenko will return to Ukraine.
Yuras Karmanau (), The Associated Press