One of the main events of the past week in Ukraine was the announcement of suspicion of the People’s Deputy, the fifth President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.
This story immediately escalated into a high-profile scandal that went far beyond the state. Both sides of the conflict are convinced of their rightness and claim that opponents are violating the law.
Handed over or not handed over?
On June 10, Petro Poroshenko was questioned by the State Bureau of Investigation, where he was summoned as a witness in a case of illegal movement of paintings across Ukraine’s state border. This is one of more than two dozen cases involving the fifth president. All of them were violated by law enforcement officers after Poroshenko resigned as head of state.
As soon as Poroshenko appeared for questioning, the press service of the State Bureau of Investigation reported that prosecutors at the Prosecutor General’s Office, on behalf of Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, had informed the former president of suspicion in one of the cases under investigation.
According to investigators, while in office, Petro Poroshenko in 2018 issued a “clearly criminal order”, which persuaded the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine to exceed the power and official authority. We are talking about the appointment of Serhiy Semochko to the position of First Deputy Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service.
“This case was formulated in such a way that Poroshenko allegedly appointed him bypassing the procedure to this position in order to steal money, ie Semochko’s salary. This is absurd. Former Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka has already said that this is “legal trash”. That’s how it really is,” said lawyer Ilya Novikov.
Poroshenko refused to receive suspicion, and his defense immediately reacted to such actions of prosecutors, declaring them illegal. According to the current Criminal Procedure Code, the notification of suspicion to the People’s Deputy of Ukraine is carried out by the Prosecutor General (Acting Prosecutor General) or the Deputy Prosecutor General – the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. These officials may instruct other prosecutors to make a written notice.
Poroshenko’s defenders stressed that the person who began to read the report of the suspicion orally did not present his credentials, so the former president left the building of the State Bureau of Investigation.
A story with pressure on the Attorney General
Meanwhile, Poroshenko and a group of deputies from his European Solidarity party went to the Prosecutor General’s Office to obtain suspicion directly from Iryna Venediktova.
According to the Prosecutor General, parliamentarians broke into her office, damaging things of security guards. At the same time, Venediktova noted: “Any proposals, instructions, and demands of the People’s Deputy regarding the pre-trial investigation are illegal. Therefore, it is illegal to put pressure on the Prosecutor General to demand that the suspect be re-informed, which in fact means repeating the procedural action, which has already been performed in the presence of the deputy’s lawyers in the DBR premises”.
In her address, the Prosecutor General reiterated that the investigation against Poroshenko is not political. “It is about fulfilling the requirements of the law before which all levels, respect for state institutions, and the rule of law,” she said.
Meanwhile, both Poroshenko’s defense, members of the European Solidarity party, and representatives of some NGOs unanimously say that the current government has staged political persecution of the former president.
“Venediktova’s ultimate goal is to fulfill a political order to imprison Poroshenko as the leader of the opposition. Zelensky spoke openly about this at a press conference. He gave the political task almost openly. Venediktova is fulfilling this task until it works out, but she is trying very hard,” said Oleksiy Honcharenko, a People’s Deputy.
Petro Poroshenko himself is also convinced that he is being persecuted on the instructions of the current head of state, and it is he who is putting pressure on the Prosecutor General, not the deputies who came to her office. “Venediktova received a clear instruction from President Zelensky from Bankova Street. We are convinced that this is a criminal offense – interference in the activities of the Attorney General by either the Office of the President or the President. And today, trying to do so, they are de facto handing over the suspicion to two – Poroshenko and Zelensky,” said the fifth president of Ukraine.
Unknowns on several machines
At the moment, no one even begins to predict how this whole story will end. After all, almost every day new circumstances appear in it. For example, on June 12, deputies from the European Solidarity Party filed an application with the Prosecutor General’s Office demanding the registration of criminal proceedings over the illegal surveillance of political force leader Petro Poroshenko.
The day before, several cars with unknown people were seen near the house of the fifth president. It is noted that such numbers, which were attached to the machines, simply do not exist in the databases. Accordingly, the party concluded that Poroshenko was being monitored by special services in cars with cover numbers. Politicians demand to know who gave the order.
The European Union is following developments
Experts noted that on June 4, when the DBR announced a court ruling on the forcible taking for interrogation of the former president, a number of European ambassadors to Ukraine arrived at the European Solidarity party’s office a few hours later to meet with Poroshenko. Observers have commented on the incident as a warning to Zelensky’s government from Europe against persecution the opposition.
Now, after the announcement of suspicion, a delegation of MEPs in the committee of the Association “Ukraine-EU” said that the European Parliament plans to “closely monitor” the case against Petro Poroshenko.
The statement was signed by the head of the delegation, Witold Jan Waszczykowski, the vice-chair, Traian Basescu, and the head of the European Parliament’s delegation to the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly, Andrius Kubilius.
“This institution (European Parliament – ed.) Considers Ukraine part of our European family not only because of geopolitical reasons but also because our societies have common values. Our Association Agreement demonstrates our commitment to a close and lasting relationship based on respect for the principles of democracy, the rule of law, good governance, human rights, and fundamental freedoms. Among our common principles are the equality of all citizens before the law, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial,” the document reads.
Representatives of the European Parliament emphasize that the trial should be based on facts and should not be used as a “means of political struggle”.
Earlier, another member of the European Parliament, an influential Lithuanian politician Petras Austravicius, warned the Office of President Zelensky against the political persecution of Petro Poroshenko. Austryavicius wrote about this on his Twitter page: “The Association Agreement obliges Ukraine to fully adhere to the rule of law and other fundamental principles. There can be no politically motivated persecution”.
It is significant that the previous Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka refused to sign suspicions in any of the cases against Poroshenko. Already after his dismissal, he noted that the open proceedings against the fifth president “do not stand up to any criticism” and he does not see anything promising in them. According to some experts, it was the refusal to participate in the pressure on Poroshenko, arranging political persecution, that led to Ryaboshapka’s dismissal.