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Ex-president Poroshenko draws thousands of supporters at Ukraine criminal trial

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.

Poroshenko calls abuse of office charge 'a petty act of revenge by small notorious people'

Smoke from flares rises above supporters of Ukraine's former president Petro Poroshenko, who is suspected of abuse of office, during a rally near the building of a presidential administration in Kyiv on Thursday. (Gleb Garanich/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 he is tried on a charge of abuse of office 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 grueling struggle," Poroshenko told his supporters.

He said he is a victim of selective justice at the hands of his successor President Volodymyr Zelensky'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."

Poroshenko, with wife Maryna, addresses supporters outside the Kyiv court building. He believes the charge is politically motivated from the administration of the man who succeeded him. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

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

Zelensky's office did not comment. Zelensky 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 European Union, but Zelensky defeated him in an election last year. He now leads an opposition party.

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