Kiev announces the arrest of Viktor Medvedchuk, close to Vladimir Putin, and offers to exchange him in captivity for the Ukrainians

Ukrainian deputy and businessman Viktor Medvedchuk, close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and recently arrested, could regain his freedom by being the subject of an exchange against Ukrainians detained in Russia. This is what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Tuesday, April 12 at: Telegram

“I propose to the Russian Federation to exchange this man for our boys and girls who are currently imprisoned in Russia. That’s why it’s important that our law enforcement and military consider this possibility as well. And let Medvedchuk be an example for you. Not even the former oligarch escaped. Not to mention the much smaller criminals of the Russian hinterland. We will have everyone† †

The Ukrainian authorities had announced the arrest of this 67-year-old Ukrainian earlier in the day. On February 26, two days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian police noticed his disappearance during a surveillance visit.

Accompanying his message was a photo of Viktor Medvedchuk, handcuffed and dressed in Ukrainian army uniform, President Zelensky said on Telegram:

“Thanks to the SBU, a special operation has been carried out. cheer! †

The Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) subsequently confirmed this arrest, without giving any details. SBU chief Ivan Bakanov thanked his subordinates for conducting successfully “this exceptional and dangerous mission”

Already subject to US sanctions

Viktor Medvedchuk has been under house arrest since May 2021 after being accused of… “high treason” and from “attempt to loot natural resources in Crimea”the Ukrainian peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

The Ukrainian businessman has been the target of US sanctions since 2014 for undermining Ukraine’s security, territorial integrity and democratic institutions. Thus, in February 2021, Kiev froze its financial assets and shut down three pro-Russian television channels, formally owned by Taras Kozak, but in fact controlled by the oligarch. Authorities had also ordered the nationalization of one of its most valuable assets, a 1,433-kilometer pipeline, which was once state property.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on his arrest to Russian news agencies, saying:“A lot of ‘fakes’ come from Ukraine” and say that “this must be checked first”

Viktor Medvedchuk, twelfth fortune of Ukraine in 2021, is one of the most powerful men in the country. The oligarch, at the head of a fortune estimated at $620 million, according to the magazine Forbesis known for his ties to President Vladimir Putin, who according to the person concerned is the godfather of one of his daughters.

Vitkor Medvedchuk, a former lawyer turned energy and agriculture tycoon in the 1990s, met Vladimir Putin when he was the head of Leonid Kuchma’s presidential government, between 2002 and 2005. In 2010, he tried, with little success, to bring him back to life. to create a civilian organization campaigning for the integration of Ukraine into the customs union promoted by Russia.

In 2015, after the signing of the Minsk Peace Accords, he was appointed Ukraine’s Representative for Humanitarian Affairs within the working groups established in Minsk. He is responsible for the exchange of prisoners between Kiev and separatist groups. According to most observers, his appointment is the result of a request from Vladimir Putin.

Viktor Medvedchuk is the leader of the pro-Russian platform For Life, which became a party with about 30 deputies in the Ukrainian parliament before it was banned in March after the Russian attack.

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Le Monde and AFP

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