Ukrainian prosecutors have asked a court in Kiev to set bail for former president Petro Poroshenko at $35 million, or send him to jail for two months.
He faces accusations of treason, which he insists are politically motivated.
To avoid jail, Poroshenko, now the one of the country’s main opposition leaders, needs to surrender his passport, post bail and agree to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, prosecutors told the presiding judge at the Pechersky District Court, in Kiev, on Monday.
One news outlet, Channel 24, reported that Judge Aleksey Sokolov had a medical emergency ahead of the decision and an ambulance was dispatched to treat him, but the court denied this.
Poroshenko left Ukraine last month after he received a summons to be interrogated about the possible charges.
He flew back from Poland on Monday, saying he wanted to help Ukraine face the “growing threat of Russian invasion” and “betrayal” by his successor Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The authorities are confused, weak, and instead of fighting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, they are trying to fight us,” he told his supporters in a speech before heading to court to be formally charged.
The indictment alleges that while president, Poroshenko took part in a scheme to buy 1.5 billion hryvnia ($54 million) worth of coal from Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014-15, after the two regions seceded from Ukraine and fought a war with Kiev.
If found guilty, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Another suspect in the treason case is 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 current President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Poroshenko, a chocolate magnate from Dnepropetrovsk, was elected after the February 2014 coup by US-backed militants and oversaw the disastrous war against the separatists.
He was defeated in a landslide in 2019 by Zelensky, who campaigned as the peace candidate.
The ex-president, 56, has denied any wrongdoing and accused Zelensky of trying to distract the country from his failures. He also said the prosecutors were acting “shamefully” and “dividing” Ukraine.
Poroshenko’s return to Kiev coincides with the visit of a US congressional delegation, led by Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), a prominent supporter of the 2014 coup.
Murphy told reporters on Monday the US had concerns about “selective justice” and the “targeting of political opponents” in Ukraine.
“We’ll leave it to the justice system to make sure that president Poroshenko gets a fair trial,” Murphy said.