Tapes show Medvedchuk admitted representing Putin’s interests in peace talks
By Oleg Sukhov
Pro-Kremlin lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk admitted to representing the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in 2014, according to Medvedchuk’s wiretapped conversations published on May 17 by the Bihus.info investigative journalism project.
The recordings document Medvedchuk’s close relations with Russian authorities, the Kremlin’s proxies in the Donbas and ex-President Petro Poroshenko. Medvedchuk started taking part in Russian-Ukrainian peace negotiations allegedly as a Ukrainian representative in 2014 but the tapes reveal that he actually represented Putin.
“I don’t know anything about the fact of such negotiations,” Medvedchuk’s spokesman Oleh Babanin told the Kyiv Post. “Given that the evidence presented in court is null and void and that there’s a clear political motive and an absolute lack of principles on the part of those who organized the (Medvedchuk case), the emergence of fakes favorable to the authorities will not surprise anyone.”
Medvedchuk, the co-leader of the pro-Kremlin Opposition Platform – For Life party, and his ally, lawmaker Taras Kozak, were charged with high treason on May 11, dealing a blow to the Kremlin’s lobby in Ukraine.
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 published recordings lend weight to that suspicion.
“I’m doing this on Putin’s behalf and on Poroshenko’s behalf,” Medvedchuk can be heard telling Alexei Karyakin, a Russian proxy leader in Luhansk Oblast. “But I don’t have anything to do with Poroshenko or any official (Ukrainian government) actions.”
Medvedchuk also told Karyakin that he did not consider Ukrainian troops to be his own and that they have as much to do with Karyakin as with him.
Medvedchuk also told his aide Dmytro Doroshenko that he was receiving instructions from Putin on whether he should start peace negotiations.
“After lunch I’m going to Sochi,” he said at the time when Putin was in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. “I will find out whether I should do this or not.”
“I have the authority from Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) and from Poroshenko,” Medvedchuk said in one of the conversations.
Instructions from Russia and its proxies
Medvedchuk also told Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide in charge of Ukrainian policy, that he wanted to get approval from the Russian authorities for a bill on a free economic zone in Ukraine’s Donbas.
Additionally, Dmitry Kozak, then a Russian deputy prime minister and now a deputy chief of staff for Putin, told Medvedchuk that Russia wanted Ukraine to resume supplying power to the annexed Crimea. Dmitry Kozak is not related to Taras Kozak.
Medvedchuk then called Dmitry Kozak back and said that the Ukrainian authorities had resumed electricity at Medvedchuk’s request.
In one of the conversations, Medvedchuk’s aide unveiled the corruption of Russia’s proxy leaders.
“To start negotiations, (Luhansk-based pro-Kremlin warlord) Valery Bolotov and other people want more primitive goals to be achieved,” Doroshenko told Medvedchuk. “I mean the issue of security and resources. For example, sending humanitarian aid, and the main guy should be in charge of distributing it.”
Medvedchuk also tried to protect the interests of oligarch Rinat Akhmetov when some of Russia’s proxies attacked his house in Donetsk.
“My good friend, Rinat Akhmetov, called me,” Medvedchuk told Karyakin. “Fifty people are now attacking his house. Maybe they shouldn’t do that?”
Karyakin responded that the people attacking Akhmetov’s house were acting independently from the leadership of Russia’s proxies, and he would take care of the situation.
Relations with Poroshenko
The wiretapped conversations also refer to frequent meetings between Poroshenko and Medvedchuk, starting from Poroshenko’s inauguration as president in June. Russia’s proxies were able to exert influence on Poroshenko through Medvedchuk.
Karyakin had told Medvedchuk that if Ukrainian troops kept moving towards the town of Izvarine in Luhansk Oblast, Russia and its proxies would shoot down a Ukrainian plane. Medvedchuk told Poroshenko about this and the Ukrainian troops halted their offensive towards Izvarine.
“The president called me back and said he gave the order to stop the armored vehicles moving towards Izvarine,” Medvedchuk told Karyakin.
When Poroshenko’s administration denied any talks with Russia’s proxies in June 2014, Medvedchuk said the exact opposite.
“The (Ukrainian) authorities are ready to consider any candidates for power in the region that (Russia’s proxies) name,” Medvedchuk said. “The (Ukrainian authorities) are ok with appointing the person that they want as governor. If they name Bolotov, they’ll appoint Bolotov. Or (pro-Russian warlord Alexei) Mozgovoi. This question has been already negotiated (with the Ukrainian authorities).”
Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party described the leak as a “black PR” campaign by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration aimed at discrediting Poroshenko.
“Petro Poroshenko did not talk with Medvedchuk on the subjects discussed by some voices in the May 17 show on Denys Bihus’ YouTube channel,” the party told the Kyiv Post. “We believe that Medvedchuk’s new ‘conversations’ were leaked from the President’s Office.”
Sanctions against Medvedchuk
Medvedchuk is a personal friend of Putin, who is the godfather of his daughter. The lawmaker has long been the unofficial representative of Putin’s interests in Ukraine.
Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak lead Opposition Platform – For Life, a pro-Russian party with 44 seats in the 422-member parliament.
The recent treason charges against them are the latest step in Ukraine’s crackdown on Medvedchuk and his interests. It began in early February, when the government sanctioned Kozak and shut down three of his television channels that Medvedchuk allegedly controlled.
Sanctions against Medvedchuk, both opposition leaders’ spouses and businesses soon followed. The state ordered the nationalization of one of Medvedchuk’s most prized possessions — an oil pipeline that used to belong to Ukraine.
A chain of gas stations associated with Medvedchuk was shut down after searches. His holiday home in the Carpathian Mountains was also searched.