New treason charges slapped on pro-Kremlin Ukranian MP
Ukraine on Friday charged pro-Kremlin lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk, a personal friend of President Vladimir Putin, with new treason and terrorism crimes for allegedly helping Russian-backed separatists sell coal to Kiev.
Medvedchuk, one of the richest people in Ukraine, is a hugely controversial figure for his ties to Moscow.
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said the 67-year-old had helped a “terrorist organisation” — a term for pro-Russia separatists — sell the coal.
Prosecutors sought his detention or the payment of a 1 billion hryvnia (about 33-million-euro) bail.
Medvedchuk’s Opposition Platform – For Life party rejected the charges as “false and baseless” and accused the authorities of seeking revenge.
Medvedchuk and his wife Oksana Marchenko were previously listed in a criminal probe into the “financing of terrorism” but were not officially charged.
Medvedchuk was previously suspected of high treason and “attempts to plunder national resources” in Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014.
He has backed pro-Russia separatists in their conflict with Kiev and is one of Ukraine’s richest people, with Forbes estimating his net worth at $620 million.
Medvedchuk has said Putin is godfather to his youngest daughter Darya.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has banned three pro-Russia television channels linked to Medvedchuk.
Zelensky’s office described the channels as a “propaganda tool” and said they receive funding from Russia.
Ukraine has been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014.
The fighting has claimed more than 13,000 lives, according to the United Nations.
Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of sending troops and arms across the border. The Kremlin has denied the charges.