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Kremlin responds to talk of ‘swapping’ Ukrainian opposition leader

Moscow sees no possibility of swapping the Ukrainian opposition leader, Viktor Medvedchuk, for any of Kiev’s soldiers captured during the ongoing Russian military offensive in the country, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday. 

Earlier, the idea was raised by the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

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Medvedchuk “has nothing to do with Russia’s special military operation to demilitarize Ukraine,” Peskov told journalists, adding that Medvedchuk was also not a Russian citizen but a “foreign politician” and it isn’t not even clear if he wants Russia to play any role in his fate.

The Ukrainian opposition leader was arrested on Tuesday by the SBU – Ukraine’s main intelligence and security agency, founded in 1991 to replace the Soviet-era KGB. Zelensky praised the development and later suggested exchanging the politician for Ukrainian soldiers captured by Russia. 

An aide to Ukraine’s interior minister then suggested beating the opposition leader into making “some confessions” before exchanging him with Russia. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called it a “very dangerous tendency” that Kiev entertains the idea of exchanging Ukrainian opposition politicians with Russia. “There are very many opposition-leaning politicians and public figures” in Ukraine, the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told a media briefing on Wednesday. 

Medvedchuk heads the second largest party in the national parliament, the “Opposition Platform – For Life.” He also opposed the 2014 Kiev Maidan and Ukraine’s pro-western policies, which he believes could hurt the nation’s interests. In late March, his party’s activities were suspended by the Ukrainian authorities amid the ongoing Russian military operation.

The politician himself was placed under house arrest last year on “treason” charges. Medvedchuk hit back by accusing Zelensky of seeking to establish a dictatorship in Ukraine and suppress the legally-elected opposition. 

Medvedchuk has been deemed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “closest ally in Ukraine” by both Ukrainian and western commenters alike. Moscow has denied any special relationships with the politician. 

The Kremlin “has no backdoor relations” with Medvedchuk, Peskov has said on Wednesday, adding that if the politician did have any connections to Moscow, he would have left Ukraine before the start of the Russian operation. If Kiev listened to the opposition leader instead of focusing on his alleged Russian ties, it might have helped Ukraine avoid a confrontation with Moscow. 

“If his ideas and those of his party had been taken into account in due time and had been used in Ukraine’s state policy, there would have been no military operation,” the Kremlin spokesman has said.

 

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