Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the capture Tuesday of a leading former Ukrainian politician with ties to Vladimir Putin.
Viktor Medvedchuk, who is Zelensky’s top political rival, was apprehended by Ukraine’s secret service after fleeing house arrest, according to reports.
Zelensky captures top political rival
Medvedchuk is the former leader of Ukraine’s biggest opposition party, Opposition Platform – For Life, which Zelensky controversially banned along with 10 other parties in March after declaring martial law, citing alleged Russian ties.
Zelensky also banned three opposition TV channels with ties to Medvedchuk — whose daughter has Putin for a godfather — last year for allegedly spreading Russian propaganda.
Zelensky’s government also sanctioned Medvedchuk and placed him under house arrest on charges of treason and supporting terrorism. The pol fled after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, but he was recently captured in a “special operation” by Ukraine’s secret service SBU, Zelensky said Tuesday.
The Ukrianian president touted his security service for a job “well done” and offered to trade Medvedchuk, who Zelensky claimed was in disguise as a soldier, to the Russians in exchange for Ukrainian prisoners.
“If Medvedchuk chose a military uniform for himself, he falls under the rules of war,” Zelensky said.
“Traitor” with Putin ties
Ukraine’s secret service similarly mocked Medvedchuk as a traitor and shared a photograph of the politician looking defeated in a Ukrainian military uniform and handcuffs. The Kremlin said they saw the photos but could not verify their authenticity.
“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,” Ivan Bakanov, chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, said. “But will it help you escape punishment? Not at all! Shackles are waiting for you and same goes for traitors to Ukraine like you.”
Medvedchuk has accused Zelensky of “political repression” against him. Medvedchuk is a sharp critic of the European Union, which Zelensky wants Ukraine to join.
The United States sanctioned Medvedchuk after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and accused him of undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty. The U.S. has also accused Medvedchuk of scheming with Putin to set up a puppet government in Ukraine.
Before he became persona non grata in Ukraine, Medvedchuk helped Ukraine negotiate with Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region.