Ukrainian ex-president takes up Kalashnikov, joining forces with political opponent Zelensky

‘Putin never will hurt Ukraine... We are free people with a great European future,’ declares former leader accused by rival of treason

Jane Dalton
Friday 25 February 2022 20:03 GMT
Mr Poroshenko showed off a Kalashnikov
Mr Poroshenko showed off a Kalashnikov (CNN)

A former president of Ukraine has joined forces with his political opponent – the current president, who is trying to have him jailed – to oppose Vladimir Putin’s invasion of their country.

Petro Poroshenko, who has previously accused his successor, Volodymyr Zelensky, of fabricating treason charges against him, had a meeting with Mr Zelensky early on Friday to discuss a plan of action.

He vowed he and fellow citizens would fight Mr Putin “for ever”, as he brandished a Kalashnikov on live television.

Mr Poroshenko said civilians who had never fought before had joined up to fight the invading Russian soldiers, but that members of the Battalion of the Territorial Defence had nowhere near enough weapons.

“We have no heavy artillery, tanks or armed personnel carrier because we launched this process just a couple of days ago,” he told CNN, as he showed off the “small” Kalashnikov automatic assault rifle.

A long line of people had enlisted in recent days. Mr Poroshenko said: “It’s extremely touching and a great demonstration of how Ukrainian people hate Putin and how we are against Russian aggression – this is very clear.”

Asked how long they could hold out, he replied: “For ever. Putin never will hurt Ukraine, no matter how many soldiers he has, how many missiles he has, how many nuclear weapons he has.

“We Ukrainians are free people with a great European future.”

Mr Putin should “feel himself in hell”, he said.

But ordinary people had donated blood for the Ukrainian army.

The former president, who was defeated by Zelensky in 2019 elections, has been charged with high treason and his assets have been frozen pending an investigation into claims of high treason.

Prosecutors have said he was involved in the sale of large amounts of coal that helped finance Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014-15.

Mr Poroshenko, owner of a confectionery empire and one of Ukraine’s richest businessmen, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

He was defeated by voters following a corruption scandal, and the charges are the latest in a string of accusations levelled against him, which he says Mr Zelensky has engineered to distract from the country’s woes.

Last month, when he returned to Ukraine to face the charges, the court refused to jail him, but banned him from leaving Kyiv and ordered him to surrender his passport.

He told supporters then: “Zelensky is an opponent for me, Putin is an enemy for me.”

The former leader on Friday wrote on Facebook: “I started my day with a 6am meeting we had on the start of aggression.

“After that, we had a meeting with President Zelensky, where we supported his proposal for the implementation of the military state. It was already 8am.

“After that, we met to discuss what exactly we can do to coordinate actions and what exactly the authorities can do.”

On Thursday he wrote: “I am very, very grateful to Ukrainians. I’m so grateful that you stood in line and I saw it today with my own eyes, donating blood to our military.

“You’ve lined up to sign up for the Territorial Defense Battalion located right here in our party office…

The progress of Russia’s invasion onThursday and Friday (Press Association Images)

“I’m so grateful that you don’t remain indifferent. You go and do your job to protect Kyiv.”

Declaring “victory will be ours”, he added: “Today Putin kills not only Ukrainians. Putin attacked Europe today. Putin attacked the whole civilized world today. And today Putin is killing citizens of the world.”

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