A guide to the 68-year-old former Ukrainian lawmaker and oligarch once dubbed the “dark prince” of Ukrainian politics.
Viktor Medvedchuk is back in the public eye once again. The Ukrainian oligarch and close friend of Vladimir Putin, who was arrested for treason and then exchanged along with 55 other Russians for 205 Ukrainian POWs in September, has published an article in Russian daily Izvestia.
In the article Medvedchuk offers the usual Kremlin talking points as he advocates for taking Russian interests into account. He also blames the collective West for obliging Russia to attack Ukraine.
Medvedchuk called on Western countries to stop supporting Kyiv and to force Zelensky to sue for peace on Russian terms. In the process, he raised the prospect of nuclear war.
“Now there are only two options: to slide into a world war and a nuclear conflict, or to start the detente process again, for which the interests of all parties must be taken into account,” Medvedchuk wrote. “But for this, it is necessary to politically recognize that Russia has interests, that they must be taken into account in constructing a new detente.”
Who is Viktor Medvedchuk?
Viktor Medvedchuk is a 68-year-old former Ukrainian lawmaker and oligarch, once dubbed the “dark prince” of Ukrainian politics.
He is considered one of the most influential pro-Russian politicians: he headed the second-largest faction of the Verkhovna Rada, the Opposition Platform – For Life.
Medvedchuk is a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Indeed, Putin is the godfather of one of Medvedchuk’s two daughters. They have met regularly over the years, even since Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014.
Viktor Medvedchuk previously headed other political projects and was even the head of the administration of the second president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma.
During the Joint Forces Operation in the Donbas shortly after the first invasion, Medvedchuk participated in negotiations on releasing Ukrainian POWs, taking advantage, experts say, of his proximity to Putin.
In February 2021, the National Security and Defense Council imposed sanctions against Viktor Medvedchuk, which were put into effect by decree of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Opposition Platform – For Life called the sanctions “repression” and “destruction of democracy.”
In 2021, Medvedchuk was accused of high treason and of handing Ukrainian military secrets to Moscow.
He was captured in April 2022 by Ukraine’s special services, after fleeing house arrest in the wake of Russia’s full-scale attack.
Earlier this month Medvedchuk was one of four highly controversial political figures, stripped of their Ukrainian citizenship by President Zelensky, who said the move was entirely appropriate for those who “choose to serve not the people of Ukraine, but the murderers who came to Ukraine.”
Why was Medvedchuk accused of high treason?
The prosecution claimed that no later than March 2015, representatives of Russia induced Medvedchuk to participate in “subversive activities” against Ukraine.
Prosecutors said, he “created conditions for the plundering of national resources,” namely, an oil and gas reservoir in the Black Sea’s Glubokaya block on the Crimean shelf.
The prosecution claimed that before the annexation of Crimea, the permission to develop this reservoir was owned by Novye Proekty, a company affiliated with Medvedchuk and registered in Kyiv.
After the annexation of the peninsula, prosecutors said, Medvedchuk handed over data about the reservoir to the “occupation authorities.”
Viktor Medvedchuk was also accused of disclosing state secrets
Prosecutors said that no later than August 2020, Medvedchuk received information about the actual location and the staff members of the secret unit of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
According to the prosecution, he sent the data to Taras Kozak, his comrade in the faction, who was then basically living in Russia and working closely with Russian authorities.
The “Luch” (RAY) Project
The prosecutors also reported on the project “Luch” (Ray) initiated by representatives of Russia. This is an organization that was supposed to take care of Ukrainian citizens coming to Russia to work or study.
In fact, the prosecutors assured, the goals of the project were somewhat different. The Russian authorities allegedly planned to create an infrastructure to influence events in Ukraine and identify potential targets for recruitment by Russian special services.
Medvedchuk, according to the prosecution, was supposed to promote the implementation of the “Luch” (Ray) project and advise its creators. In particular, he edited the concept of this project and then sent his notes to Russia.
In February 2021, Zelensky imposed sanctions against the people’s deputy Taras Kozak, a member of Opposition Platform – For Life, and three TV news channels belonging to him: 112 Ukraine, ZIK, and NewsOne. They stopped broadcasting.
However, Medvedchuk was generally considered to be the actual owner of these channels.
ZIK, 112 Ukraine, and NewsOne were among the five most popular news channels in Ukraine. The pro-Russian narrative of these channels was repeatedly confirmed by media monitoring.
Their narratives consisted of statements like “No one attacked Ukraine, there is a civil war going on here, Ukraine is the one to blame”; or “Ukraine just needs to start being Russia’s ally again”; or “Crimea wasn’t annexed. It was the local residents’ decision to join Russia”; and so forth.
Why was it shut down?
By the end of 2019, the NewsOne channel announced its intention to hold a Ukraine-Russia teleconference. The Russian partner of this project was to be the state TV channel, the propaganda mouthpiece Russia 24.
The teleconference in the planned format was canceled shortly after the announcement. However, Ivan Bakanov, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine at that time, said that sanctions should be imposed against Medvedchuk’s channels “to prevent the implementation of an anti-Ukrainian information campaign by the aggressor state.”
Alisa Orlova is an editor and correspondent for Kyiv Post. For the last seven years, she has worked as a TV journalist, covering primarily topics on international policy. Back in September, Alisa joined Kyiv Post team. She is mostly interested in psychology, public relations, sociology, and politics.