Medvedchuk, battered and worn out, handcuffed, and sporting the Ukrainian army uniform, is an epic photo that has made rounds around the world. People wondered what would happen next, who he would be exchanged for, and whether Putin would save his buddy. Now, his statements about Poroshenko’s involvement in the procurement of coal in the ORDLO and transition of the oil pipeline from state ownership are used and broadly cited.
We have decided to gather information about this and other criminal proceedings to remind why the SBU detaining him was such a cause for celebration.
The former head of the OPFL is involved in at least 9 criminal cases. He is suspected of treason and encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine through a statement about the need to establish the so-called autonomous region of Donbas with its own parliament and government, as well as the consolidation of such a status in the Constitution; the proceedings were initiated by the Prosecutor General’s Office in 2019; criminal proceedings by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Bureau of Investigation and the Prosecutor General’s Office.
He is involved in the cases concerning:
- transition of part of the oil pipeline Samara – Western Direction from public to private property. Medvedchuk is charged with abuse of power or office and receiving illegal benefits;
- sale of substandard oil products by the Glusco network based on abuse of power or office, illegal production of excisable goods, legalization or laundering of property, and tax evasion;
- NewsOne channel’s involvement in the financing of the Russian defense complex — accordingly, he is suspected of treason, financing terrorism and money laundering;
- another count of treason due to the statements made by Medvedchuk on the Russian channel RT regarding NSDC’s sanctions against the channels 112, ZIK and NewsOne;
- another count of treason due to transfer of data containing state secret to Russian special services and recruitment of Ukrainians for distribution of Russian propaganda;
- another count of treason, the creation of a terrorist organization and the commission of a crime by a group of persons by prior conspiracy; he is accused of involvement in a criminal scheme of supplying coal from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and paying leaders of terrorist organizations for the supply;
- violation of the laws and customs of war — the details of the case have not been disclosed.
On two counts of treason, Medvedchuk was to be held under house arrest as an interim measure. In both cases, this measure was appealed; and the appellate court upheld the decision.
In addition to these proceedings, as reported by The New York Times, Medvedchuk was involved in an American investigation concerning Russia’s interference in the US elections.
After Viktor Medvedchuk was put on the list of sanctioned persons, the owner of the family’s valuable property was changed through offshores, including the Royal Romance yacht worth almost $200 million. However, the Asset Recovery and Management Agency did find this boat in Croatia. On April 11, it was seized by Lychakivskyi District Court of Lviv and transferred to the ARMA. Further, the Agency is planning to sell the yacht via open bidding, with the money received going to the national budget.
Medvedchuk’s Crimes Not Yet Indicted
There are other acts committed by Medvedchuk which clearly qualify as crimes at least of a moral nature, but they have not reached the accountability stage yet.
The most famous, of course, is the case of Vasyl Stus. Viktor Medvedchuk was appointed the poet’s lawyer in 1980. Stus tried to refuse, yet Medvedchuk stayed. He later sided with the judge and agreed to all charges. Stus essentially defended himself. He was sentenced to 10 years of forced labor and 5 years of exile. In 1985, Stus died in the prison of a special regime camp. Later, a higher court ruled that if Medvedchuk had acted within the law, the poet could have been acquitted.
This is not the only case where Medvedchuk, as a lawyer, helped prosecute rather than defend Ukrainians. In 1979, he was a lawyer for dissident Yuri Lytvyn, and in 1985 — of Mykola Kuntsevych. Kuntsevych also tried unsuccessfully to refuse the services of such a “defender.” Medvedchuk not only agreed to all charges, but also made a motion to extend the sentence.
In 1996, Medvedchuk became an adviser to then-President Leonid Kuchma, and the following year, he was elected to the Parliament for the first time. For several years in a row, he served as Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, and in 2002, he became the head of the Presidential Administration. Medvedchuk was called a “gray cardinal” — he was an influential figure in public affairs. Among other things, he controlled the media; told them how to cover political subjects. During the Orange Revolution, Medvedchuk was credited with influencing the election in favor of Viktor Yanukovych.
Journalist investigations also show that Medvedchuk violated law and ethics not only in his legal practice and political work, but also business. In particular, “Skhemy” found out that Crimean gas from the annexed mine is extracted by a company with ties to his family, as well as how he avoids American sanctions to supply oil products from a Russian plant in the US.
In general, there were many more journalistic materials: about Medvedchuk’s ties with Russia and ORDLO, his influence in Ukrainian politics and business. Isolated incidents and large-scale thorough investigations all testify to Medvedchuk’s systematic criminal activities against Ukrainians.
How do Medvedchuk’s fellow party members react to his detention?
Since May 2019, Medvedchuk has been the chair of the political council of Opposition Platform For Life party, as well as the head of its strategic council. His detention was brought up in rather underwhelming terms by fellow party members Yurii Boiko and Nestor Shufrych. Boiko said that he learned about the situation from the media, and Medvedchuk’s future is to be determined by the court. Shufrych was also cautious: law enforcement officers detained his colleague by court decision, he said, and Medvedchuk would have to be provided with an opportunity to participate in the criminal proceedings and qualified protection.
The National Security and Defense Council suspended the activities of the OPFL itself until the end of the martial law. Rabinovych also announced that the party stopped working on March 28, but the official statement on the website was removed the next day. And on April 14, the Verkhovna Rada dissolved the OPFL faction. Currently, the party’s website and its main channels on social networks are not available.
In addition, at least 11 current and former OPFL members are abroad, including:
- Vadym Rabinovich;
- Ihor Abramovych (left the faction in March 2022);
- Vadym Stolar (left the faction in March 2022);
- Taras Kozak;
- Hryhorii Surkis;
- former MP Illia Kyva.
In turn, party representatives in local government often help the occupiers. In Mariupol, a local council member from the OPFL Kostiantyn Ivashchenko declared himself the “chair of the city administration” and collaborates with the Russians. The City Council reported that the city was betrayed by four more representatives of the OPFL. In Energodar, Andrii Shevchyk became the head of the “public council of population self-organization.” In Izium, OPFL councilor Anatolii Fomachevskyi, together with the former mayor, a police officer and a councilor from the Svitlychna Bloc, leaked information about the Armed Forces and local resistance to the occupiers. And in Kupiansk, mayor Hennadii Matsehora also agreed to work with the Russians.
In total, the traitors registry by Chesno movement already includes 26 representatives of the OPFL — which is about a fourth of all the names on the list.
So, it seems that the party will now have to take care of its own survival and reformatting its work, rather than supporting Medvedchuk. What is more, political observers believe that it would make sense for them to get rid of Putin’s proxy under the current circumstances.
Russia is unlikely to need Medvedchuk either. After the SBU detained him, Medvedchuk recorded a video and asked to be exchanged for defenders and residents of Mariupol. But the Russian side did not respond immediately. And then Putin’s spokesman Peskov said that since Viktor Medvechuk was a Ukrainian politician and not a citizen of Russia, it would hardly be possible to exchange him for Ukrainian soldiers from Azovstal.
Therefore, Ukraine does not even seem to have a choice now to get rid of the Kremlin proxy, instead returning its hero defenders of Azovstal. One way or another, Medvedchuk must be held accountable.
One way or another, Medvedchuk must be held accountable.