Fugitive Ukrainian oligarch close to Putin detained by special forces

Viktor Medvedchuk was leader of pro-Russian party Opposition Platform — For Life

Fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, who is both the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party and a close associate of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has been detained in a special operation carried out by the country's SBU secret service, Ukrainian officials said.

“Pro-Russian traitors and agents of the Russian intelligence services, remember - your crimes have no statute of limitations,” Ukraine’s security service posted on Facebook alongside a photo of Medvedchuk in handcuffs.

Operatives "conducted this lightning-fast and dangerous multi-level special operation", the head of the organisation Ivan Bakanov said.

The statement came shortly after President Volodymyr Zelensky posted on social media a photo of Mr Medvedchuk sitting in handcuffs and wearing a camouflage uniform with a Ukrainian flag patch.


Mr Medvedchuk was the former leader of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform — For Life.

He was being held under house arrest before the war began and disappeared shortly after hostilities broke out.The pro-Russian figure, who says Mr Putin is godfather to his daughter, has denied wrongdoing.

A Kremlin spokesman was cited by the Tass news agency as saying he had seen the photo and could not say whether it was genuine.

Hours earlier, Mr Putin used his first public comments on the conflict in more than a week to insist Russia will “rhythmically and calmly” continue its operation, citing the need to achieve goals on security.

“That blitzkrieg on which our foes were counting did not work,” he said, batting aside the impact of sanctions and warning that on-and-off peace talks were in a “dead-end situation.”

But he frequently seemed to ramble or stammer. Only occasionally did he adopt the icy, confident demeanour that has been his trademark in public appearances over more than 22 years as Russia’s leader.

Mr Putin, who had been ubiquitous on Russian television in the early days of the war, had largely retreated from public view since Russia's withdrawal from northern Ukraine two weeks ago.

On Monday he met the visiting chancellor of Austria. The meeting was held at a country residence outside Moscow and no images were released, a contrast from talks with Western leaders on the eve of the war, when they were pictured seated at opposite ends of a huge table in the ornate Kremlin palace.

Moscow’s nearly seven-week long incursion, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 4.6 million people flee abroad, killed or injured thousands and led to Russia’s near total isolation on the world stage.

Russia says it launched what it calls a “special military operation” on Febraury 24th to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext. – Reuters, AP