Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has taken to social media on Tuesday to announce the arrest of Ukraine’s most prominent opposition leader.
A post on the President’s official Telegram channel shows a photo of Viktor Medvedchuk handcuffed and captioned: “A special operation was carried out by the SBU. Well done! Details to follow.”
The SBU is Ukraine’s equivalent to the FBI and was founded in 1991 as a replacement for the KGB.
Zelensky later said that he considered “it especially cynical of him to use military camouflage,” mocking Medvedchuk as trying to pose as a “warrior” and “patriot” and offered exchanging the politician for Ukrainian POWs held by Russia.
Medvedchuk is a crucial pawn in the conflict as he is the leader of the second largest political party in the Ukrainian parliament, the “Opposition Platform – For Life.” In 2021 political polls showed “Opposition Platform – For Life” overtaking Zelensky’s political party as the most popular in the state.
In retaliation, Zelensky shut down any media outlets that supported Medvedchuk and arrested him for “treason.”
Although some Western commentators labelled Medvedchuk as Vladimir Putin’s “closest ally in Ukraine.” He is adamant that his party represented the best interest of the Ukrainian people, representing the ever day citizen. Even the Russian president has described him as a “Ukrainian nationalist.”
In February 2021, he accused Zelesnky of attempting to establish a dictatorship in Ukraine and suppress the legally elected opposition. Kiev then charged Medvedchuk with treason in December 2021, for illegally buying coal from the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk and thus “financing terrorism.”
When the Russian military operations began in Ukraine in February, he was placed under house arrest, but there were reports he had potentially escaped to Russia since then.
There are also speculations though, whether he has been kept locked up throughout these past weeks and his showcasing now is linked to divert Ukrainian public’a attention from the mass surrender of troops in Mauripol.