Ukraine' ex-president avoids pre-trial detention as West warns against score settling

  • World
  • Thursday, 18 Jun 2020

Supporters of Ukraine's former President Petro Poroshenko, who is suspected of abuse of office, hold a rally near the building of a presidential administration in Kyiv, Ukraine June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian prosecutors dropped a demand on Thursday for former President Petro Poroshenko to be taken into custody while he awaits trial in a criminal case he says is politically motivated.

Thousands of flag-waving supporters greeted Poroshenko when he arrived at a Kyiv court for a hearing on what measures to take before Poroshenko is tried on charges stemming from suspicions that he issued an illegal decree in 2018 on the appointment of a deputy head of the foreign intelligence service.

The court deferred its decision until July after prosecutors changed their demand for pre-trial detention to a request for other conditions to be set, including Poroshenko agreeing not to leave Kyiv without permission.

"This means that this is not our victory, but only the beginning of a gruelling struggle," Poroshenko, 54, told his supporters.

He says he is a victim of selective justice at the hands of his successor President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's administration. He compared the situation to life under former President Viktor Yanukovich, who imprisoned a rival and was later toppled by street protests in 2014.

"This is a petty act of revenge by small, notorious people," Poroshenko said. "The insignificant revenge of the insignificant people who do not like Ukraine."

Western backers of Ukraine including the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany had earlier expressed concern about proceedings. The U.S. embassy said the "justice system should not be used for the purpose of settling political scores".

Zelenskiy's office did not comment. Zelenskiy has previously said Poroshenko would be brought to justice but it was a matter for law enforcement bodies.

Poroshenko came to power in 2014 with a pledge to move Ukraine closer to NATO and the EU, but Zelenskiy defeated him in an election last year. He now leads an opposition party.

(Writing by Matthias Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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