On July 30, Kyiv Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv on extension of the house arrest for Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of Opposition Platform – For Life, Ukraine’s largest opposition party. Lawyers and Medvedchuk himself crushed all the contentions of the prosecutors in court, providing arguments about the falsification of the case and the groundlessness of the house arrest, however, the court, being pressed by President’s Office, made a decision that is contrary to legal logic again.
Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, is believed to be the top opponent and even rival of President Volodymyr Zelensky. In August 2019, Zelensky, in one of his interviews, promised a “bad end” for the Opposition Platform – For Life, opposition party, represented by Medvedchuk. In the following two years, members of nationalist groups, controlled by the authorities, burned offices of the political force. Media published plan of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to spy on the parliamentarians of the Opposition Platform – For Life.
In the beginning of 2021, the National Security and Defense Council, without legal authority to do so, introduced a package of sanctions against Viktor Medvedchuk, his wife, and MP Taras Kozak, the owner of three largest opposition television channels in Ukraine. President Zelensky, by his decree, introduced these sanctions, imposing them against his own citizens, despite this is directly prohibited by law. Three TV channels were closed. Later, criminal cases were initiated against MPs Medvedchuk and Kozak. Lawyers and political observers believe the cases are politically motivated. Medvedchuk is under attack due to his political activities.
While in opposition, Medvedchuk negotiated and agreed with Putin the issues of gas discount for Ukraine upon the resumption of direct purchases, on the lifting of sanctions against a number of Ukrainian enterprises, and then on the supply of the Sputnik V vaccine to combat coronavirus during Ukraine’s most tough period of the disease. Ukrainian authorities did not respond to this proposal, an agreement with the Russian Federation on the production of this vaccine in Ukraine was reached. Medvedchuk and his party demonstrated effectiveness in the country’s most challenging areas, where the authorities appeared to be unable to take the necessary action. Nevertheless, Zelensky blocked all Medvedchuk’s initiatives. However, this did not prevent Opposition Platform – For Life from leading the election ratings or Medvedchuk from becoming Zelensky’s main opponent.
When the criminal cases have been opened, Medvedchuk did not try to escape from justice – he himself appeared to get the suspicion, shocking the Prosecutor’s Office by such a step. Conversely, on May 13the court, pressed by the President’s Office, sent the politician under house arrest. During the court hearing on the extension of house arrest on July 8, Medvedchuk’s lawyers smashed the arguments of the investigation, but Judge Vovk made an openly illegal decision to extend the measure of restraint.
Today, July 30, this illegal decision was upheld by the Kyiv Court of Appeal. Despite the fact that in his address, Medvedchuk compartmentalized the illegality of this decision.
“The Security Service of Ukraine falsified this case, fabricated the materials. Back in 2019, at the direction of President Zelensky, the Security Service of Ukraine began illegal, criminal actions against the MPs of our faction… I am convinced that the criminal activity of the Service, aimed at falsifying these materials, is nothing more than a criminal prosecution of the opposition and political repression,” the leader of the Opposition Platform – For Life winded up his speech in court.
Medvedchuk is a well-known lawyer, MP of the Verkhovna Rada of four convocations. Together with his lawyers, he has organized professional defense in court, the corruption and dependence of Ukraine’s judicial system do not allow the MP and the leader of the largest opposition force to protect his honour and dignity.
Medvedchuk is persuaded that the persistent unwillingness of the authorities to cancel his house arrest is associated with the aim of limiting his political activities. While being under house arrest, Medvedchuk cannot hold meetings with voters, cannot meet with foreign partners, etc.
Vladimir Putin has already intervened on his political ally. Over the past month, he has several times stressed on the inadmissibility of Viktor Medvedchuk’s prosecution.
“Closing down the nationwide media, putting under the house arrests, as is currently the case with [Viktor] Medvedchuk. At the same time, Ukraine’s authorities make absolutely illegal decisions even outside their competence. That is, these forces get no chance of legal political work,” Putin stated.
In doing so, the Russian leader does not want to meet with Zelensky until the latter desists from harassing Medvedchuk. Furthermore, the observers assure that Moscow has suspended any negotiations with Kyiv until the situation with Medvedchuk is resolved. This could negatively consequence on Donbas peaceful settlement. Many experts urge Zelensky not to jeopardize the peace talks in Donbas for personal reasons of the war with Medvedchuk.