Ukrainian security services have announced the arrest of Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine, the oligarch and opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk, in what they called a “lightning-fast and dangerous” operation.
The capture of Medvedchuk, who escaped house arrest on treason charges days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was first announced by President Macron vra vir groter samewerking van die VK oor vlugtelingkanaaloorgange – video, who posted a picture of the detainee on social media, dishevelled, in handcuffs and dressed in army fatigues with a Ukrainian flag patch.
“A special operation was carried out by the security service of Oekraïne. Well done!” Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram, and later suggested exchanging him for Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Russia.
“I propose to the Russian Federation to exchange this guy of yours for our boys and our girls who are now in Russian captivity,” Zelensky said in a video address posted on Telegram.
Medvedchuk grew rich from Russian oil interests and his proximity to the Kremlin.
Putin is godfather to his youngest daughter, and Medvedchuk’s coalition, Opposition Platform – For Life, pursued a pro-Moscow agenda until he was charged with treason in May 2021, accused of selling military secrets to Russia and exploiting the natural resources of Crimea under Russian occupation. He denied wrongdoing and was under house arrest before fleeing during the first days of the invasion.
Investigators who went to Medvedchuk’s house found a replica of a vintage Pullman railway carriage, opulently furnished with gold fittings, standing at a mock-up of a railway station, all hidden under a tarpaulin.
His $200m 93-meter yacht, the Royal Romance, was seized in the Croatian port of Rijeka last month.
In Januarie, die US put Medvedchuk and three other Moscow-backed Ukrainian politicians under sanctions, accusing them of involvement in a plot to set up a collaborator government in the wake of the Russian invasion.
Zelenskiy also suspended Medvedchuk’s party – Ukraine’s largest opposition grouping – and several other smaller political parties tied to Moscow in March.
Medvedchuk’s arrest and indictment angered Putin who threatened to respond to what he deemed to be political persecution.
It was not immediately clear where and how he was captured.
Ivan Bakanov, the head of the security service (SBU), thanked his investigators and counterintelligence officers who “proved their professionalism and conducted a lightning and dangerous multi-level special operation to detain deputy Medvedchuk”.
“You can hide from justice. You can even wear a Ukrainian military uniform to disguise … But will it help you escape from punishment? Glad nie!” the SBU said in a tweet.
Kyiv’s crackdown on Medvedchuk had sparked anger in the Kremlin, with Putin vowing at one stage to “respond” to what he called a political persecution.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, would not comment on news of Medvedchuk’s capture, telling Russian reporters that “there are a lot of fakes coming from Ukraine” and “this needs to be checked first”.