Viktor Medvedchuk: Ukraine seizes 55 homes, 26 cars and a yacht from Putin’s allies

correction

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Viktor Medvedchuk is believed to have been one of the richest people in Russia. He is believed to have been one of the richest people in Ukraine. The article has been corrected.

Ukrainian authorities announced on Thursday that they had seized 154 assets from pro-Kremlin opposition politician and mogul Viktor Medvedchuk, who was captured this week following an escape from house arrest shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Among the long list of property seized from Medvedchuk and his family: 30 plots of land, 23 houses, 32 apartments, 26 cars and a yacht.

The seizures add further intrigue to the circumstances surrounding the escape and recapture of one of Ukraine’s most infamous oligarchs, known for his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who serves as the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.

Who is Viktor Medvedchuk, the pro-Russian mogul arrested in Ukraine?

Despite a humble beginning, Medvedchuk was one of the richest people in Ukraine. He seemed to enjoy a lavish life: After escaping his house arrest in a mansion in an exclusive spa town near Kiev in February, activists found that the place housed an ornate replica of a 19th-century railroad dining car, filled with a gold-plated toilet and bidet hose.

The Ukrainian authorities had already last year accused Medvedchuk of treason and put him under house arrest and frozen some of his assets. As tensions rose between Russia and Ukraine, the opposition leader was accused of participating in Russian plans to impose a puppet government on Ukraine.

In January, the US Treasury Department said Medvedchuk and two members of his political party were involved in a conspiracy to “recruit current and former Ukrainian government officials to prepare to take over the Ukrainian government and control Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with a Russian occupying force.”

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the 67-year-old mogul fled from house arrest in a mansion in the city of Pushcha-Vodytsya.

Medvedchuk’s location was a mystery for 48 days before the surprising announcement of his capture this week. In photos shared by President Volodymyr Zelensky, the shaggy refugee was shown wearing camouflage fatigue with a Ukrainian flag mark.

On April 13, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed exchanging Viktor Medvedchuk, a friend of the Russian president, with Ukrainians captured by Russians. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Reuters)

In a speech on Ukrainian television, the head of Ukraine’s SBU State Security Service revealed details of his capture, claiming that agents from Russia’s FSB intended to take Medvedchuk across the border by boat into Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region, where Russian forces are stationed. and from there to Russia.

“In fact, they would allegedly take Medvedchuk to the Ukrainian border under the guise of a member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, accompanied by colleagues,” Ivan Bakanov said. His comments were later published on the Telegram channel of the Ukrainian security service.

Bakanov said an “evacuation group of FSB special forces” was waiting in Transnistria, which would then take Medvedchuk to Moscow. The Russians, he said, were helped in their plan by members of Ukraine’s criminal world and “corrupt law enforcers.”

Ukrainian security agents arrested Medvedchuk as he left the Kiev region on Tuesday.

Medvedchuk was the leader of Ukraine’s main pro-Russian political party, the Opposition Platform-For Life party, and is among Putin’s strongest Ukrainian supporters. Zelensky’s government suspended Medvedvcuk’s party along with other smaller pro-Russian parties in March.

Outside of his political career, Medvedchuk was also one of the richest people in Ukraine with a net worth of $ 620 million in 2021, according to Forbes Ukraine. Ukrainian officials said he had control of three TV channels, though these were blocked last year when Zelensky’s government said they were “one of the instruments of war against Ukraine” and bankrolled by Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and former Russian president, rejected Zelensky’s offer of a prisoner exchange for Medvedchuk on Wednesday and appeared to threaten his Ukrainian guards.

“These people should be careful and lock the doors well at night to ensure that they do not become the people to be exchanged themselves,” Medvedev said, according to a Reuters report.

In its statement released on Thursday, Ukraine’s state investigation office said it would continue to “pursue traitors and confiscate their property as required by law”, but did not provide further details about Medvedchuk’s property.

Ukrainian media reported this week that a 300-foot yacht called the Royal Romance owned by Medvedchuk was being transferred to a government agency recovering seized assets. The $ 200 million boat had been docked in the port of Rijeka, Croatia.

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