(Reuters) – Russia on Wednesday told Ukraine to “exercise caution” after its ex-Soviet neighbor arrested pro-Kremlin politician Viktor Medvedchuk and rejected Kyiv’s offer of an exchange with a warning that those holding him could soon be arrested.
Medvedchuk, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, was shown handcuffed and dressed as a Ukrainian soldier on Tuesday in a photo posted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Twitter.
Zelensky suggested replacing Medvedchuk, while Ukraine’s SBU called him a traitor with a future in handcuffs.
“Those lunatics who call themselves Ukrainian officials say they want to take Viktor Medvedchuk’s testimony ‘quickly and fairly’, convict him and then replace him with prisoners,” said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council.
“These people should be careful and close their doors well at night to ensure that they do not turn into people to be exchanged,” said Medvedev, a close ally of Putin who held the presidency of Russia from 2008 to 2012.
In February, Ukraine said Medvedchuk, the leader of the opposition Platform – For Life party, had escaped house arrest. Last year, the authorities opened a treason case against Medvedchuk, who denies wrongdoing.
The Kremlin said the case against Medvedchuk was politically motivated and denied he had any communication channels with the Russian leadership.
“He has no behind-the-scenes relationship with Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
“We will trace the fate of Viktor Medvedchuk – and also ask European politicians to do the same, because they have always been very interested in freedom of expression,” Peskov said.
In response to a question about the Ukrainian proposal to replace Medvedchuk with Ukrainians detained by Russia, Peskov said that Medvedchuk is a Ukrainian citizen and a foreign politician.
(Report from Reuters)
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