Ukrainian authorities say they captured a prominent pro-Kremlin tycoon who escaped from house arrest after Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a photo online of a dishevelled-looking Viktor Medvedchuk with his hands in cuffs and dressed in a Ukrainian army uniform.
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“A special operation was carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine. Well done!” Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram.
Security agency chief Ivan Bakanov said agents carried out a “lightning-fast and dangerous multi-level special operation to detain” the Russia-friendly lawmaker.
“No traitor will escape punishment and all will be held accountable under the law of Ukraine,” a statement on Telegram said.
Medvedchuk, one of the richest people in Ukraine, is a hugely controversial figure for his close ties to Moscow. He is the leader of the Opposition Platform – For Life party.
The 67-year-old business tycoon counted Russian President Vladimir Putin among his personal friends and said the Kremlin leader is godfather to his youngest daughter Darya.
He was being held under house arrest since last year on treason charges over accusations of attempting to steal natural resources from Russia-annexed Crimea and of handing Ukrainian military secrets to Moscow.
Medvedchuk, who has denied any wrongdoing, reportedly fled shortly after Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Police said they did not find him at his home address on February 26, and announced he was missing a day later.
Kyiv’s crackdown on Medvedchuk sparked anger in the Kremlin, with Putin pledging at one stage to “respond” to what he called political persecution.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on Medvedchuk’s detention, telling Russian news wires “there are a lot of fakes coming from Ukraine” and “this needs to be checked first”.
In an early morning address on Wednesday, Zelenskyy proposed swapping Medvedchuk for male and female prisoners of war being held by Russian forces, saying it was “important for our security forces and military forces to consider such a possibility”.
“And may Medvedchuk be an example for you,” Zelenskyy said in the video posted on Telegram. “Even the former oligarch did not escape. What can we say about much simpler criminals from the Russian hinterland? We will get everyone.”