Ukrainian opposition leader and Russia-ally Viktor Medvedchuk reappeared at the General Prosecutor’s office on May 12 and denied charges of treason levelled again him and his allies earlier this week.
Medvedchuk is the head of the Political Council of the Opposition Platform, For Life Party and a personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has come under attack from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy after the government imposed sanctions on Medvedchuk for “financing terrorism” and closed down three leading TV stations associated with him and his business partners in February.
Things went to the next level this week.
Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova, a Zelenskiy loyalist, issued treason charges against Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak, the legal owner of the three television channels that were closed in February.
Medvedchuk’s home and offices were raided by police this week and he reportedly went into hiding. However, he reappeared on May 12 in front of the prosecutor’s office to declare his innocence and said the charges against him are politically motivated.
“I’m not planning on hiding from law enforcement and I’m ready to defend myself because I don’t feel guilty,” he said as cited by the Kyiv Post. “Everything that is going on, it’s political repressions against me as an (opposition) party leader.”
Medvedchuk and Kozak are suspected of colluding with the Russian government to extract natural resources in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that has been illegally occupied by Russia since the 2014 military invasion.
The prosecutor claims Medvedchuk re-registered his Kyiv-based company according to Russian laws to continue extracting gas in the peninsula. She also says that the law allowing Ukrainian companies to continue to work in Crimea, if they re-register in Russia, was specially created for Medvedchuk by the Kremlin.
Venedyktova released audio tapes that allegedly show Medvedchuk discussing the details of the Crimea business with Putin’s deputy chief of staff, Dmitry Kozak.
The oil and gas field that Medvedchuk’s company allegedly worked on is estimated to be worth UAH38bn ($1.4bn), according to Venedyktova. It is known as the “Hlyboke” oil and gas field and is located in the eastern part of Crimea, the Kyiv Post reports.
Medvedchuk also allegedly shared geological information that helped Russia begin extracting resources in Crimea.
Medvedchuk first said that he “can’t comment about any gas fields” because he didn’t read the charges against him yet, but then denied working the “Hlyboke” gas field in Crimea.
“I’ve never heard of this field and I’m not involved in it,” he said on May 12.
Medvedchuk is also accused of sharing the location of Ukrainian troops in Donbas, where they were fighting off Russia’s intervention.
“This is absurd, absurd!” Medvedchuk said about this accusation.
Medvedchuk said that he didn’t listen to the tapes, released by the prosecution, that allegedly record his conversations with Dmitry Kozak. But he confirmed that he “frequently talks with Kozak,” who also oversees Russian participation in the Minsk II accords.