Ukraine Arrests Putin Ally Viktor Medvedchuk; Zelensky Says Will Release Him in Exchange For Prisoners of War

Ukrainian troops have captured Russia-backed oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk weeks after he fled the house arrest in Kyiv. Medvedchuk, chairman of Ukraine's "Opposition Platform - For Life" party, was arrested by Ukraine's security service SBU during an operation by a special unit on Tuesday night.

Viktor Medvedchuk
Viktor Medvedchuk

Medvedchuk Has Been Hiding For 48 Days

Medvedchuk, 67, has previously denied any wrongdoing. Following his arrest, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed that Medvedchuk, who has been hiding for 48 days, was detained on Cosmonautics Day.

He revealed that Medvedchuk had decided to leave Ukraine. "Well, for this "astronaut" - in the bad sense of the word - the famous "Let's go!" did not work."

Zelensky was angered that it was cynical of him to use military camouflage as Medvedchuk had tried to disguise himself as a soldier. He also stressed that Medvedchuk has fallen under the rules of wartime as he chose to wear the military uniform.

Viktor Medvedchuk
Viktor Medvedchuk TASS

Ukrainian President also made an offer to Russia with the arrest, asking Moscow to exchange Medvedchuk for Ukrainian prisoners of war who are in Russian captivity.

Medvedchuk Has Been Putin's First Choice in Replacement of Zelensky

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has responded to the arrest and maintained that he has seen the photos of Medvedchuk released by the Ukrainians. But the official pointed out that it's too early to authenticate his arrest.

Medvedchuk was believed to be Putin's potential choice as Ukraine's new head of state by replacing Zelensky as he is so close to the Russian President. At the beginning of the invasion, Moscow had plans to forcefully remove pro-West Zelensky from power and replace him with a puppet leader, who is a pro-Russian. Medvedchuk had been the best choice the Kremlin could consider about as he has also been a supporter of pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

Zelensky had taken stern actions against Medvedchuk as the oligarch had owned three television stations, which were closed last year following the orders of the Ukrainian president. Zelensky had claimed that the channels used to run anti-Ukrainian narratives and support Putin's agenda against Ukrainians.