Fugitive Putin ally Medvedchuk arrested – security service

Handout photo by Ukraine's security service SBU purportedly showing Viktor Medvedchuk in handcuffs
Viktor Medvedchuk

Ukraine says it has arrested fugitive pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, seen as President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the country.

Ukraine’s security service SBU posted a photo purportedly showing Mr Medvedchuk in handcuffs and wearing Ukrainian military fatigues.

He had been under house arrest in the capital Kyiv on suspicion of treason – but escaped soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Mr Medvedchuk, 67, denies wrongdoing.

In his nightly video address to the nation on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered to exchange Mr Medvedchuk for Ukrainian “boys and girls who are now in Russian captivity”.

He earlier wrote on Facebook that Mr Medvedchuk had been arrested after a “special operation” by the SBU.

The security service said in a statement: “You can be a pro-Russian politician and work for the aggressor state for years. You may have been hiding from justice lately. You can even wear a Ukrainian military uniform for camouflage.

“But will it help you escape punishment? Not at all! Shackles are waiting for you and same goes for traitors to Ukraine like you.”

Mr Medvedchuk, who says President Putin is godfather to his daughter, is a wealthy businessman who leads the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life party.

He has repeatedly described the accusations against him as “political repression”.

For years he was tolerated in Ukrainian political circles because he was seen as an important channel of communication with the Kremlin, but he was charged with treason in May 2021.

Russia on Tuesday said it was checking information about the reported arrest.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this was because “so many fakes are now coming from Ukraine” that “now everything needs to be checked”.

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