Viktor Medvedchuk: Ukraine secret services capture pro-Kremlin politician and Putin ally after weeks on run

He was reported to have escaped house arrest just three days after Putin launched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Related video: Ukraine forces escape from Mariupol foiled, says Russian Defence Ministry spokesman

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Ukraine’s secret services have captured a pro-Russia politician and close friend of Vladimir Putin weeks after he escaped house arrest.

President Volodymyr Zelensky published a photo of Viktor Medvedchuk in handcuffs on his Telegram account on Tuesday. Ivan Bakanov, the head of Ukraine’s national security agency, said on the agency’s own channel that Mr Medvedchuk had been arrested.

Last year, Ukrainian authorities opened a treason case against Mr Medvedchuk, the leader of Ukraine’s opposition party who counts Mr Putin as a “personal friend” and godfather to his daughter.

In 2018, Mr Medvedchuk gave an exclusive interview with The Independent ahead of the election in March of that year.

“The government has no influence on life in the country. It has no monopoly of force,” he said at the time.

Follow our live updates on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine here

Mr Medvedchuk was reported to have escaped house arrest just three days after Putin launched his invasion of the country on 24 February.

The leader of the For Life party, had been under house arrest since last year after the authorities opened a treason case against him. He denies wrongdoing.

His lawyer also denied the allegation from Kyiv that he had escaped, instead saying Mr Medvedchuk had been forced to move location due to threats from nationalist groups.

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin (R) attends a meeting with lMedvedchuk in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 18 July 18 2019

“In connection with the real danger to life, as well as the need to ensure his protection, Viktor Medvedchuk was evacuated to a safe place in Kyiv,” the lawyer Larysa Cherednychenko said.

His lawyer also claimed Mr Medvedchuk would continue to meet his legal obligations during the hearing of the treason case.

The opposition politician was first placed under house arrest in may over accusations of treason and attempting to ransack state resources in Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.

British intelligence agencies have said Russia intended to install a pro-Russian puppet government after invading Ukraine.

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