Poroshenko fights selective justice ‘at the orders of Zelenskiy’

File photo. Petro Poroshenko, former Ukrainian President and leader of the European Solidarity political party reacts at his campaign headquarters following a parliament's elections in Kyiv, Ukraine, 21 July 2019. [Sergei Dolzhenko/EPA/EFE]

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is fighting a court decision to have him brought in by force for questioning by the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI). Poroshenko’s lawyers and his party said this latest development illustrates what the West calls “selective justice” in Ukraine.

Invoking the classified nature of pre-trial investigations, SBI has not specified the reasons for the questioning. Poroshenko has skipped previous attempts by SBI to be questioned due to being abroad. The former head of state has reportedly failed to show up at almost 30 interrogations in 16 criminal cases in which he is either a defendant or a witness.

Last month, SBI summoned Poroshenko to be questioned as a witness in a criminal proceeding regarding the legality of his actions in appointing the first deputy head of the Foreign Intelligence Service.

Poroshenko now leads the party ‘European Solidarity’ and is the lead figure of the pro-Western opposition to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s ruling ‘Servant of the People’ party.

On Monday (24 February), the team of lawyers assisting Poroshenko denounced the ruling as political, and stated that it had been “dictated in the office of President Zelenskiy”.

‘European Solidarity’ stated that “political persecutions in Ukraine are unacceptable”.

Flagrant violations of the law and the abuse of law-enforcement agencies for the sake of settling political scores with the opposition leader showcase the weakness of the government in the face of internal and external challenges, the party said. They also present a threat to the national security of Ukraine, it added.

“Attacks against the team of Petro Poroshenko aim to divert the attention of society from the inability of the present authorities to effectively react to security challenges, to effectively manage the economy and to meet its generous pre-election promises”, the party stated.

Taras Kuzio, a professor in the Department of Political Science at the National University of Kyiv, wrote that Zelenskiy is being lobbied by oligarch Igor Kolomoyskiy to press criminal charges against Poroshenko.

Zelenskiy, a former comedian, is known to have longstanding business ties to Kolomoyskiy, one of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchs, who lost control of his Privat Bank under Poroshenko.

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According to Kuzio, Kolomoyskiy’s desire for revenge has brought him close to the pro-Russia camp in Ukrainian politics, the Opposition Platform.

Kuzio wrote that Zelenskiy’s team is being assisted in its pursuit of criminal charges against Poroshenko by Andriy Portnov, who was the senior legal adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, the head of state from 2010 to 2014, and his deputy chief of staff. Portnov returned to Ukraine at the same time as Kolomoyskiy.

He also added that the revelations made by whistleblower Judge Larysa Holnyk that Portnov and Zelenskiy’s former chief of staff, Andriy Bohdan, had pressured Roman Truba, the head of the SBI, to launch a number of criminal investigations against Poroshenko.

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“The threat of returning PrivatBank to Kolomoyskiy and the selective use of justice against Poroshenko, if actioned, would severely weaken Zelenskiy’s presidency and would undermine Ukraine’s European integration,” Kuzio wrote.

“If Zelenskiy continues to play Kolomoyskiy’s fiddle, he will face another Maidan, a move that will only benefit Russia and President Putin,” Kuzio concluded.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Benjamin Fox]

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