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Ukraine questions MP and Putin ally for ‘treason’

Ukraine said Tuesday it had questioned pro-Moscow lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as part of criminal proceedings into alleged treason.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the national security and defence council said Medvedchuk and his wife Oksana Marchenko were being probed for “financing terrorism”, but did not provide details.

Ukraine’s security service confirmed the questioning in a statement. A law enforcement source told AFP that “the questioning was in relation to treason and also other issues”.

Ukraine has been fighting separatists backed by Russia in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Kiev accuses Moscow of sending troops and arms to fuel the conflict that has left some 13,000 dead.

Kiev prosecutors launched a treason probe into Medvedchuk in February 2019 over calls to grant autonomy to regions in eastern Ukraine.

Last month Ukraine imposed sanctions against him, accusing Medvedchuk of “financing terrorism” due to his business interests in Russia.

In a statement Medvechuk’s party — “Opposition Platform – For Life — said the sanctions were an “act of political repression”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also banned three pro-Russian television channels linked to Medvedchuk to stop what his office said was “Kremlin propaganda.”

Kiev lost eight soldiers in clashes with separatist fighters since mid-February in the first escalation in the conflict since a ceasefire agreed last July.

Observers say the uptick in violence could be a Kremlin response to Ukraine’s sanctions against Medvedchuk.

“We understand that there are consequences. We understand that the number of armed provocations at the front has increased,” Zelensky told reporters Tuesday.