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Former president returns to Ukraine ahead of court hearing

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Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko returned to Kyiv on Monday, where he faces possible arrest ahead of a court hearing Monday after being accused of missing a court date last month.

Poroshenko touched down in Ukraine on Monday morning at the Zhuliani airport in Kyiv, according to The New York Times. He reportedly said that some border guards blocked him from entering the country until he was ultimately allowed to move ahead. He added that authorities took away his passport.

Poroshenko, who served as president between 2014 and 2019, left Ukraine in December because he said he had meetings in Europe, according to the Times. Prosecutors, however, accuse him of dodging a court hearing.

The former president’s Monday court hearing is regarding charges of high treason and supporting terrorism, over his alleged help financing Russian-backed separatist fighters through illegal coal sales. His assets were reportedly frozen earlier in January.

He traveled back to Ukraine on Monday despite media reports that a sealed order for his arrest had been issued, according to the Times.

Poroshenko and sitting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, two of the country’s most popular politicians, have been ensnared in a dispute for some time. 

Poroshenko’s key support comes from Ukrainian nationalists in the western regions of the country, which are in favor of a stronger relationship with Europe, according to the Times. He has been critical of Zelensky and his efforts to make peace with Russia through negotiations.

The former president’s return to Ukraine comes after the U.S., its allies and Russia engaged in diplomatic discussions last week to tame the tensions between Moscow and Kyiv.

Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border, stoking fears that Moscow may be planning an invasion. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters last week that U.S. intelligence indicates that Russia is actively creating a pretext for a potential invasion of Ukraine.

Russia, however, called that allegation “total disinformation.” Additionally, Moscow has repeatedly denied having plans to invade Ukraine.

Poroshenko, before traveling back to Ukraine, suggested that his arrest may in turn help Russia.

“He wants to undermine the stability in Ukraine,”  Poroshenko said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He analyzes two versions: One version is a military aggression through the Ukrainian-Russian or Ukrainian-Belarusian border. The second is just to undermine the stability inside Ukraine, and in this way just stop Ukraine from our future membership in NATO and in the E.U.,” he added.

Tags John Kirby Vladimir Putin

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