Putin ally detained by Kyiv offered to exchange for ‘boys and girls in Russian captivity’

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On Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Security Service of Ukraine released images of Ukrainian politician and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk in handcuffs, claiming they had captured the supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin weeks after he allegedly escaped from house arrest following Russia’s invasion. He had been under house arrest in the capital Kyiv on suspicion of treason – but escaped soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

Mr Medvedchuk, 67, denies wrongdoing.

In his nightly video address to the nation on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered to exchange Mr Medvedchuk for Ukrainian “boys and girls who are now in Russian captivity”.

He earlier wrote on Facebook that Mr Medvedchuk had been arrested after a “special operation” by the SBU.

The security service said in a statement: “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 same goes for traitors to Ukraine like you.”

Mr Medvedchuk, who says President Putin is godfather to his daughter, is a wealthy businessman who leads the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life party.

He has repeatedly described the accusations against him as “political repression”.

Medvedchuk was initially placed on house arrest in May 2021 after Ukraine accused him of treason.

The politician is one of Russia’s most prominent allies in Ukraine, and he’s been a close friend of Putin for decades.

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine began sanctioning the oligarch.

Zelensky froze Medvedchuk’s assets in 2021, claiming he’d been financing acts of terrorism.

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Russia on Tuesday said it was checking information about the reported arrest.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this was because “so many fakes are now coming from Ukraine” that “now everything needs to be checked”.

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