Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has been out of the country since December, says he will return to Ukraine despite rumors he will be immediately arrested on charges of suspected treason.
Poroshenko told Current Time in an interview that the case investigators have been trying to build against him for allegedly helping separatists sell some 1.5 billion hryvnyas ($54 million) worth of coal to Kyiv in 2014 and 2015 targets "the fate of all Ukraine."
"I will not end up behind bars, they will not have enough courage, forces, or will for that," he said when discussing what he thinks will happen upon his return to Ukraine, expected on January 17.
"I am coming back not to defend myself from [President Volodymyr] Zelenskiy, but to defend Ukraine... We must defend Ukraine from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, defend the country from the incompetent, rotten, and absolutely corrupt authorities," Poroshenko added.
In December, Ukraine's State Investigation Bureau said Poroshenko had been placed under formal investigation for high treason, accusing him of "facilitating the activities" of separatists fighting government forces in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,200 lives since April 2014. Poroshenko rejected the accusations as politically motivated.
On January 6, Ukrainian authorities said that a court in Kyiv had frozen Poroshenko's property as part of a formal investigation into alleged high treason, which he has rejected.
The 56-year-old former president, who is now a lawmaker and the leader of the opposition European Solidarity party, has denied the allegations while accusing Ukrainian authorities of crossing "a red line" by bringing treason charges against a former head of state.
Last month, prosecutors asked a Ukrainian court to arrest Poroshenko with bail set at 1 billion hryvnia ($37 million).
Poroshenko faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the treason charges.