- Ukrainian authorities captured Viktor Medvedchuk while he was departing Ukraine’s Kyiv region
- Russia’s Federal Security Service allegedly attempted to smuggle him to Transnistria before taking him to Moscow
- Ukraine proposed to exchange Medvedchuk for prisoners of war held by Russia, but the Russians dismissed the offer
Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) captured an escaped pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and oligarch while he was attempting to leave the country in Ukrainian military fatigues, the agency announced.
SBU operatives and investigators detained Viktor Medvedchuk, a known ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a “dangerous” and “special” operation, the service said in a statement.
Medvedchuk, who has been dubbed “Putin’s best friend in Ukraine,” was put under house arrest in May last year after he was accused of treason.
The former head of Ukraine’s pro-Russian For Life political party escaped custody following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) allegedly attempted to smuggle Medvedchuk by boat to Transnistria, a breakaway state recognized internationally as a part of Ukraine’s western neighbor, Moldova.
He would then be greeted by awaiting FSB special forces and be taken to the Russian capital of Moscow, according to the SBU.
In addition to Russian special forces, “representatives of the criminal world and corrupt law enforcement officers were involved in its implementation,” SBU chief Ivan Bakanov said during a national telethon.
The FSB tried to disguise its plans as much as possible by throwing disinformation, trying to organize fake routes and attempting to divert attention, the official noted.
Despite the FSB’s efforts, SBU counterintelligence was able to determine Medvedchuk’s true escape route, as well as the place of arrival of the FSB’s evacuation group, according to Bakanov.
Medvedchuk was later detained while departing Ukraine’s Kyiv region. He was accompanied by Ukrainian law enforcement officers, “who will also be responsible for their actions,” Bakanov said.
“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 the same goes for traitors to Ukraine like you,” the SBU head was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, for his part, also released a statement announcing Medvedchuk’s capture.
“Well done… Glory to Ukraine!” read the post, which included a photo of what appeared to be a handcuffed Medvedchuk wearing a Ukrainian military uniform.
Prior to his arrest, Medvedchuk hid in a private house in Kyiv with his cook and security personnel, one of the Ukrainian politician’s former bodyguards told the SBU.
Zelensky proposed swapping Medvedchuk for male and female prisoners of war being held by Russian forces.
“It is therefore important that our law enforcement and military also consider this possibility,” the Ukrainian head of state said in another statement.
However, Russia dismissed the offer, with Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that Medvedchuk was “not a citizen of Russia” and that he “has nothing to do” with the country’s “special operation,” Russia’s term for the invasion of Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine reported.
Medvedchuk and the Kremlin have denied that he pulled strings for the Kremlin in Kyiv Photo: SPUTNIK via AFP / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV
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