Viktor Medvedchuk, for a long time a leading pro-Russia figure in Ukrainian politics, had until now been lying low since he turned up in Russia last year. A personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian politician was detained trying to flee Ukraine last year, and was subsequently brought to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange. Now the publication of an article by Medvedchuk in the Russian newspaper Izvestia appears to herald his return to the public arena.
The concept for his comeback is clear: the Kremlin apparently still sees Medvedchuk as the leader of the pro-Russian political bloc in Ukraine, and is only prepared to discuss peace terms with him, not with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. It suggests that the Kremlin is frantically looking for a way out of the dead end it has backed itself into in Ukraine.
Medvedchuk’s publication echoes Putin’s 2021 article on Ukrainian-Russian relations. It repeats the usual grievances against the West, reproaches the ungrateful Ukrainian public for selling out their Slavic brotherhood to the West, and reminds readers that the industrialized Donbas region had long fed the rest of the country.
On a practical level, the article calls for the establishment of some sort of center of emigration, a “government in exile,” perhaps, that would speak on behalf of the Ukrainian “party of peace” supposedly driven out of the country by President Zelensky. “A political movement of those who did not give in, who did not renounce their convictions even while fearing death or prison, who do not want to see their country become the setting for a geopolitical shoot-out,” as Medvedchuk pompously puts it.
Kyiv was ready for Medvedchuk’s return. The Ukrainian government swiftly stripped him of his Ukrainian citizenship and mandate as a parliamentary deputy, and meted out the same fate to his closest business partner, Taras Kozak, and two more pro-Russian parliamentary deputies, so that they cannot claim to be representing Ukraine.
Shortly before the article was published, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said that Kozak was trying to build unofficial diplomatic bridges with Europe in order to lobby the pro-Kremlin agenda. Judging by the passage in Medvedchuk’s article in which he writes that “no one has any time for the Ukrainian party of peace in Europe or the United States,” if there was such a mission, it was clearly unsuccessful.