Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and oligarch, was arrested in a “special operation”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram on Tuesday.
Zelensky posted a photo of a handcuffed, disheveled-looking Medvedchuk wearing fatigues, with the caption: “A special operation was carried out thanks to the SBU [the Security Service of Ukraine]. Good work! Details later.”
Prior to the invasion of Russia, Medvedchuk had faced allegations of treason in Ukraine and had been placed under house arrest. His whereabouts were unknown in the weeks following the invasion. Some observers have speculated that Medvedchuk or one of his allies could be the Kremlin’s preference to lead a puppet government in Ukraine if the February 24 invasion succeeds in toppling Zelensky.
Putin links: Medvedchuk was sanctioned by the United States in 2014 “for threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes. “.
But the businessman also served as an intermediary between Moscow and kyiv after the outbreak of the Donbass conflict in 2014, relying on his personal ties to Putin. In a 2019 interview with filmmaker Oliver Stone, Putin acknowledged that he was godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter.
“I wouldn’t say we are very close but we know each other well,” Putin said. “It was [former Ukrainian] President [Leonid] chief of staff of Kuchma, and it was in this capacity at the time that he asked me to participate in the baptism of his daughter. According to Russian Orthodox tradition, you cannot refuse such a request.”
Medvedchuk was also known in Ukraine for his role as the Soviet state-appointed defense attorney for Ukrainian dissident poet Vasyl Stus, who died in a Soviet labor camp in 1985.
In a statement, SBU chief Ivan Bakanov said: “You can be a pro-Russian politician and work for the aggressor state for years. You can hide from justice lately. You can even wear a Ukrainian military uniform to camouflage yourself…you to escape punishment? Not at all! Chains are waiting for you. And for the same traitors of Ukraine as you!”
Bakanov added: “Pro-Russian traitors and Russian intelligence agents, remember – your crimes are imprescriptible. And there are no hiding places where we wouldn’t find you!”
CNN was unable to immediately reach a legal representative for Medvedchuk.