Ukraine Captures Putin's Close Ally Who Escaped House Arrest

Ukraine captured pro-Putin politician Viktor Medvedchuk on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed.

Zelensky announced the capture in a post on his Telegram Tuesday afternoon, adding that more details about the capture would be announced later. The message came alongside a photograph of Medvedchuk in handcuffs.

"A special operation was carried out thanks to the SBU. Well done! Details later," Zelensky wrote. "Glory to Ukraine!"

Medvedchuk is a close friend to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he has claimed is the godfather to his daughter. Details about the capture were not immediately clear.

Zelensky putin capture friend ally
Ukraine captured pro-Putin politician Viktor Medvedchuk on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed. Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Ingushetia's regional head at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 30. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images

Medvedchuk served as the leader of Ukraine's Opposition Platform—For Life party.

"You can be pro-Russian politician and work for aggressor for years. You can evade justice. You can even wear Ukrainian military uniform. But can you evade punishment? Never! Handcuffs await you," wrote the Security Service of Ukraine in a Facebook post following his capture.

Chairman Ivan Bakanov said, "I thank all the SBU officers, in particular, investigators and counterintelligence officers of the Ukrainian special services, who, following the instructions of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, proved their professionalism and conducted this lightning-fast and dangerous multilevel special operation to detain MP Medvedchuk."

"No traitor will escape punishment and will be held accountable under the Law of Ukraine. For all the severity, for all the crimes of today, which led to his personal actions," he added.

He had been under house arrest since last year after authorities opened a treason case against him, but Ukrainian authorities said he escaped house arrest in late February—just days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Reuters reported.

Ukrainian authorities accused him of attempting to steal state resources in Crimea, the region of Ukraine Russia annexed in 2014, according to Reuters.

He claimed to have had to change his location due to threats from nationalist groups.

Some experts speculated that Putin might select Medvedchuk to become a "puppet leader" of Ukraine should the country fall to Russia—a scenario that has become less likely since the early days of the invasion—due to his anti-West beliefs and close ties to Putin.

"Even if he wasn't the number one, he might be the actual number one, even if they put some other figurehead there," Jaro Bilocerkowycz, an expert on Ukraine and Russia with the University of Dayton, told Newsweek in February.

As western countries seek to punish Putin-connected oligarchs for the invasion, his 300-foot mega yacht, The Royal Romance, was seized in the bay of Rijeka in March.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign ministry for comment.