Zelensky Proposes Putin Swap Viktor Medvedchuk With Ukrainian POWs

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has proposed exchanging Viktor Medvedchuk, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin captured by Ukrainian forces, with Ukrainians that have been captured and taken to Russia.

Zelensky first announced the news of the arrest of the fugitive, who is seen as Putin's closest ally in Ukraine, in a Telegram post on Tuesday.

"A special operation was carried out by the security service of Ukraine. Well done!" Zelensky wrote in a post that included a picture of the detainee in handcuffs and dressed in army fatigues with a Ukrainian flag patch.

Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he attends a press conference with Austria's chancellor in Kyiv, on April 9, 2022. Zelensky has proposed exchanging Viktor Medvedchuk, a captured ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin captured by Ukrainian forces, with Ukrainians that have been captured by Russia's military. Ronaldo Schemidt

The Ukrainian leader then proposed swapping Medvedchuk with Ukrainians captured and sent to Russia.

"Some kind of warrior. Some kind of patriot. I propose to the Russian Federation to exchange this guy of yours for our boys and our girls who are now in Russian captivity," Zelensky said in a video posted on Telegram.

Zelensky has said that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens in occupied regions have been deported to Russia, many of them placed in "special filtration camps."

Medvedchuk is an oligarch and opposition politician in Ukraine, who made his fortune through Russian oil interests and his close proximity to the Kremlin. He has previously said Putin is godfather to his daughter. Medvedchuk is known as the "Grey Cardinal," due to his low profile hiding a wide influence over pro-Russian forces in Ukraine for two decades.

The oligarch had escaped house arrest, where he was being held on treason charges, days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Medvedchuk had been held on the charges since 2021 over accusations of attempting to steal natural resources from Crimea, an area of eastern Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014. He is also accused of divulging Ukrainian military secrets to Moscow.

The Ukrainian security service (SBU) on Twitter said: "You can be a pro-Russian politician and work for the aggressor state for years. You may have been hiding from justice lately. You can even wear a Ukrainian military uniform for camouflage.

"But will it help you escape punishment? Not at all! Shackles are waiting for you and same goes for traitors to Ukraine like you."

The post cited Ivan Bakanov, head of the SBU, saying his operatives had "conducted a lightning-fast and dangerous multi-level special operation" to arrest Medvedchuk. The post did not give further details.

Newsweek has contacted the Ukrainian foreign ministry for comment.

Speaking to Channel 24 on Tuesday about hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who have allegedly been deported to Russia since the war started, Zelensky said: "They are placed in special filtration camps, documents are confiscated, and humiliated. How many of them are killed is unknown."

After failing to take several major Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, Russian forces have refocused their invasion on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine and to the south of the country, including the besieged port city of Mariupol.