Ukrainian opposition leader responds to Russia’s asylum offer
Former Ukrainian president and current MP Petro Poroshenko, who is on bail on charges of state treason, aiding terrorist organizations, and financing terrorism, has rejected an invitation of political asylum from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Writing on Facebook, Poroshenko, who says his case is politically motivated, responded by telling the Russian leader that Ukrainian politicians can solve their problems themselves, implying that Putin should mind his own business.
“Our team has repeatedly stated that, by persecuting the pro-European opposition in Ukraine, Zelensky first of all wants to give a gift to Putin,” Poroshenko said. According to him, Putin’s offer of asylum “confirms” that Kiev’s decision to prosecute its own former president is a present to Moscow.
“I advise Volodymyr Alexandrovich [Zelensky] to stop making Putin happy and start defending the country. That's where we should direct our efforts and the efforts of law enforcement agencies, which are instead dealing with Poroshenko more than the Russian threat,” he continued.
Poroshenko, who led Ukraine from 2014 to 2019, is being investigated over his alleged involvement in the funding of separatist fighters in Donbass, in eastern Ukraine, through the illegal purchase of $54 million worth of coal. This is prohibited under Ukrainian law, and he is therefore accused of treason and promoting terrorism. If found guilty, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
On Monday, during a press conference with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Putin revealed that Moscow is ready to offer political asylum and had floated the idea in the past.
“I told him that if he had any difficulties in the future, Russia was ready to grant him political asylum,” Putin said, noting that Poroshenko laughed off the idea. His predecessor, Viktor Yanukovich, received asylum in Russia after February 2014. “Today I want to reaffirm my offer [to Poroshenko], despite us having serious differences on the issue of a settlement in Donbass.”
The offer, although made in a serious tone, was characterized by many online as “trolling.”
Poroshenko isn’t the only opposition figure being prosecuted by Ukraine’s judiciary. The same court case also targets Viktor Medvedchuk, head of the political council of the Opposition Platform – For Life party, the country’s largest opposition group in Parliament. Poroshenko and Medvedchuk are the two main opposition leaders and the most significant political threats to Zelensky.