The Kremlin has apparently disowned Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine.
Iktor Medvedchuk, an oligarch and opposition politician believed to be nominated by the Kremlin to replace Volodymyr Zelenskyy as president, was arrested Monday after escaping house arrest. Mr Zelenskyi had proposed a prisoner swap, but the Kremlin appears to have abandoned Putin’s former right-hand man.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “He is not a citizen of Russia, but a foreign politician. We don’t even know if he wants that.” Mr Peskov had previously questioned the accuracy of the reports of Mr Medvedchuk’s capture.
Up until this week, Mr Medvedchuk was so close to Putin that he made the Russian President his daughter’s godfather.
Ukraine placed Mr Medvedchuk, 67, under house arrest last May after he was accused of treason and illegal exploitation of natural resources in Crimea. Three television stations believed to have been funded by him were shut down.
On February 27, three days after the start of the Russian invasion, Mr Medvedchuk escaped house arrest, according to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. However, Ukraine’s security service announced on Tuesday that he had been re-arrested in a “lightning-speed and dangerous” operation.
Mr Zelensky shared a picture of Mr Medvedchuk, who looked tired, was dressed in a Ukrainian military uniform and was handcuffed.
In his late-night address to his people Tuesday, Zelensky offered to trade Mr Medvedchuk for Ukrainian “boys and girls now in Russian captivity.”
Mr. Medvedchuk first met Putin in 2003. At the time, Mr. Medvedchuk was chief of staff to Leonid Kuchma, the former President of Ukraine.
When Russia annexed Crimea, Mr Medvedchuk obtained shares in a Russian oil refinery at a bargain price and has since been accused of funneling his earnings to pro-Kremlin separatists in the Donbass region.
Mr Medvedchuk, who remains leader of the pro-Kremlin opposition party Opposition for Life, has claimed his friendship with Putin is good for Ukraine.
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/europe/kremlin-disowns-ally-in-ukraine-after-he-is-captured-41551854.html Kremlin disowns ally in Ukraine after being captured