Who is Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s relative, imprisoned in Ukraine?

Kyiv | Ukrainian Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, asks in a video released Mondaybe exchanged in Ukraine against the soldiers and civilians of the besieged city of Mariupol, is the confidant of the Russian President in that country, where he has been defending his interests for more than 20 years.

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“I would like to address the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy with a request to exchange me from the Ukrainian side for the defenders of Mariupol and its residents,” said the deputy and politician, a Ukrainian Businessman Viktor Medvedchuk in this short video.

The 67-year-old, who was arrested while fleeing the country’s special services since the Russian invasion, sits at a table dressed in black in this undated video.

In a photo of him published by President Zelenskyy on the evening of April 12, the multi-millionaire, once one of the most influential men in the country, no longer looks like a shadow of himself.

In the photo, he appears handcuffed, his hair disheveled, in a Ukrainian military uniform, sitting on a chair in what looks like an old office.

The announcement of the arrest of this deputy, one of Ukraine’s most hated politicians for his ties to the Kremlin master, caused an explosion of joy on social media that day.

“It’s a symbolic event, it’s like the capture of Goebbels,” Sergiy Lechchenko, adviser to President Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, told AFP, referring to Nazi Germany’s former propaganda chief.

Dubbed the “prince of darkness” by the media, “he was the man who received direct instructions and resources from Putin to prepare the ground for the invasion,” Lechchenko said.

President Zelensky offered to trade it for Ukrainians captured by Russian forces, but the Kremlin dodged the idea. Mr Medvedchuk was “not a Russian citizen,” Moscow had said, saying he didn’t know if he wanted Russia to interfere in his case.

According to Mr. Medvedchuk, his relationship with Vladimir Putin “developed over 20 years”. “I’m not saying I take advantage of this relationship, but it’s part of my political arsenal,” he told US Magazine in 2021. time.

The two men met in the early 2000s: Vladimir Putin, a former KGB member, had just been elected President of Russia, and Mr Medvedchuk, a lawyer suspected of having been an unofficial KGB collaborator, presided at that time the cabinet of the Ukrainian President.

“Vice-Putin” in Ukraine

In this position, he is accused of organizing a massive electoral fraud in favor of a pro-Russian in 2004, which sparked the first Maidan, a pro-Western uprising.

In late 2013, the second pro-Western revolution broke out in Kyiv, leading to the overthrow of a pro-Russian president. A month later, Russia annexed Crimea, and war with Moscow-backed separatists in the east of the country ensued.

Discreetly, Mr. Medvedchuk takes part in the peace talks and finally enters parliament in 2019, after 15 years without an official political function.

His Moscow-openly supported opposition party Platform for Life finished second in the parliamentary elections behind President Zelenskyy’s party.

But in February 2021, the horizon is beginning to darken for Medvedchuk, 12and Assets of Ukraine last year were $620 million, according to the magazine forbes.

By decree, President Zelenskyi bans three of his television stations, mouthpieces of Russian propaganda.

The authorities then announce the confiscation of the Medvedchuk family’s assets, including an oil pipeline carrying Russian oil to Europe.

In May 2021 he was charged with “treason” in connection with the Russian-Ukrainian diplomatic crisis.

He is accused of owning real estate in Crimea but also investing in a Russian refinery in 2014 that supplied fuel to the separatists in Donbass.

Placing Medvedchuk under house arrest angers Putin, who denounces “a political purge.”

“Medvedchuk was the vice-Putin, his confidant, his eyes and ears in Ukraine, spreading Moscow’s messages,” sums up Serguiï Lechtchenko.

Russian coat of arms

The last public snapshot of MM. Putin and Medvedchuk is dated October 2020.

Viktor Medvedchuk was born in Siberia on August 7, 1954 and returned to Ukraine with his family in the 1960s.

After studying law, he took on the role of defending several Ukrainian dissidents, but his critics have accused him of doing nothing to prevent re-imprisonment for anti-Soviet activities of the famous poet Vassyl Stous, who died in November in the Gulag at the age of 47 .

Mr Medvedchuk has already been hit by US sanctions for his role in annexing Crimea and has also been sanctioned by the UK.

After his escape, Ukrainian media discovered a life-size wagon richly decorated in gold and velvet with the Russian coat of arms on the grounds of his residence near Kyiv, apparently a birthday present from his wife, a TV presenter Oksana Marchenko, who fled to Russia.

On the “platform” next to the clock is the name of the station Dalnyaya (distant, in Russian).

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