Pro-Russian politician and oligarch accused of treason in Ukraine
Ukraine has accused pro-Russian MP and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk of high treason; on May 13, the court placed him under house arrest. Medvedchuk is one of the most influential people in Ukraine, an oligarch with alleged ties to President Vladimir Putin, a media mogul, and one of the leaders of the country’s largest opposition parties. Experts believe that the persecution of Medvedchuk which the previous president failed to carry out is an attack on Vladimir Putin personally.
A court in Kyiv chose house arrest as a preventive measure for MP Viktor Medvedchuk (as per the new legislation, MPs in Ukraine no longer possess deputy immunity from criminal prosecution).
On May 11, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Irina Venediktova signed a decree raising suspicion of the activities of Medvedchuk, as well as his colleague, MP of the For Life opposition faction Taras Kozak, Ukrainian TV channel Hromadske reports.
The deputies are suspected of recognizing the annexation of Crimea, disclosing state secrets, and “attempting to plunder national resources”.
The Ukrainian security service has launched search party in Medvedchuk’s house.
On February 19, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine imposed sanctions against MPs Medvedchuk and Kozak in connection with the investigation into the financing of terrorism. As a result of the sanctions, the broadcasting of three pro-Russsian-minded TV channels, NewsOne, 112 Ukraine, and ZIK, were suspended in Ukraine. The TV channels de jure belong to Taras Kozak, but in Ukraine, Medvedchuk is considered to be their real owner of them.
Who is Medvedchuk
Viktor Medvedchuk is the godfather of the President of Russia, and Vladimir Putin is the godfather of Medvechuk’s daughter.
Medvedchuk openly expresses his pro-Russian position and claims that he does not consider Russia to be an aggressor. He travels frequently to Moscow and holds meetings with high-ranking Russian officials, including President Putin. At the same time, he publicly claims that Donbas and Crimea belong to Ukraine.
Medvedchuk is one of the leaders of the Opposition Platform – For Life party, which, as a result of the 2019 parliamentary elections, created the largest opposition faction in the Verkhovna Rada. The party is in favor of restoring relations with Russia.
Medvedchuk often tries to act as an intermediary between Kyiv and Moscow, he has repeatedly organized the exchange of prisoners and convicts between the countries.
What is Medvedchuk accused of
Taras Kozak and Viktor Medvedchuk were charged on three counts: embezzlement of state mineral resources, transfer of secret military information and subversive activities.
The investigation established that Medvedchuk and Kozak transferred the Glubokaya offshore gas field in the Sea of Azov to Russia. In 2015, Medvedchuk and Kozak re-registered the company managing the field under Russian law, effectively passing it under the jurisdiction of Russia. The public was presented with evidence – documents and audio recordings of Medvedchuk’s conversations with representatives of the Russian government.
The second episode took place in August 2020 when Medvedchuk allegedly sent secret information about the location and armament of one of the secret military units of the Ukrainian armed forces to a representative of the Russian authorities.
The third episode concerns state security and Medvedchuk and Kozak’s project which provided for the grounds for the “creation of an infrastructure of influence” deriving from the Ukrainian labor migrants in Russia: Ukrainians were to be encouraged to seek work in Russia, and spread propaganda about it upon returning back home.
On May 12, Viktor Medvedchuk came for questioning to the office of the Prosecutor General in Kyiv. He then told the reporters that the case launched against him is an act of political repression.
Medevechuk stressed that he has no intention to hide from law enforcement officers.
“I am ready to defend myself because I do not feel guilty about anything. And I think that today everything that is being done is the result of political repressions, pressure on me as the head of the political council of the party, a person whose actions, for one reason or another, upset the authorities”, Medvedchuk said.
The timing of the investigation
By launching the case against Medvedchuk, the team of President Zelensky is simultaneously striking a triple blow: against Medvedchuk himself, his godfather Vladimir Putin and the ex-President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, says Sergei Rudenko, a Ukrainian journalist, and political observer.
“Vladimir Putin sees the Medvedchuk case as nothing more than a personal attack. The Russian president, apparently, still cannot believe that Zelensky made him worry about the future of Viktor Vladimirovich (Medvedchuk) and his wife. The godfathers of the master of the Kremlin are under attack. In order to sort out the situation, Vladimir Vladimirovich needs to have a dialogue with Vladimir Aleksandrovich (Zelensky), whom he certainly does not consider equal to himself”, Rudenko comments on DW.
As for the former president and one of Zelensky’s main opponents, Petro Poroshenko, this case creates “certain inconveniences” for him, since, while being in power, he did seek to prosecute Medvedchuk and did not respond to the facts on the basis of which he is now being charged, Rudenko believes.
In turn, political analyst Yuri Romanenko says that the “performance” going on around Medvedchuk’s case began with the introduction of sanctions against Medvedchuk and his associates.
“Until the issue of Medvedchuk’s political presence is resolved, Ukraine will not be able to break away from the ‘Russian world’. He needs to be destroyed as a political player”, Romanenko believes.
However, Romanenko adds that President Zelensky does not set himself such a task, and he is more worried about the drop in the rating of the ruling Servant of the People party. Moreover, the investigation did not present anything new, and these facts have been known since 2017-2018.
Romanenko believes that Medvedchuk will not surrender, especially since he has influence over the Ukrainian courts: “He will bet on a high-profile process to strengthen his position on the pro-Russian flank”.