Viktor Medvedchuk, a fugitive who was the most prominent representative of pro-Russian political factions in Ukraine and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been tracked down and arrested by Ukrainian intelligence.
A trained lawyer and wealthy businessman who has held political office since the 1990s, Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest last year to face treason and terrorist financing charges, which he denies. He escaped days after the Russian invasion began in February.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy offered to exchange Medvedchuk for prisoners of war held by Russian forces.
Here are facts about the 67-year-old:
- Born in Russia, Medvedchuk has often been photographed with Putin. He describes the Russian president as a personal friend and says Putin is godfather to his youngest daughter, Daryna.
- Medvedchuk served as chief of staff to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma from 2002 to 2005. He was an opponent of Kuchma’s pro-Western successor, Viktor Yushchenko, and a close associate of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s last pro-Russian president, who fled to Russia after being ousted in a popular uprising in 2014.
- In 2008, Ukrainian magazine Focus estimated Medvedchuk’s wealth at $460 million. Its investments include energy, resources and media.
- During the conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine in 2014, he played a role in peace negotiations, including as a member of Ukraine’s negotiating team for the exchange of prisoners.
- In 2014, the United States placed Medvedchuk on its sanctions list for his alleged role in Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. In 2021, Ukraine imposed sanctions on Medvedchuk for his involvement in what authorities have qualified as terrorist financing. He denied these accusations.
- According to Ukrainian authorities, Medvedchuk was involved in the illegal sale of coal from separatist-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine. Last year, Ukraine nationalized a petroleum products pipeline owned by Medvedchuk and shut down several TV stations the media associated with him.
- In May 2021, Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest and charged with high treason and later aiding terrorism.
- He has been married three times. His current wife is a former TV presenter, Oksana Marchenko.