MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin harshly criticized Ukrainian authorities on Friday for what he described as their crackdown on friendly opposition from Moscow amid simmering tensions between the two neighbors.
Putin’s statement comes a day after Viktor Medvedchuk, who heads the opposition Platform for Life party, the largest opposition force in parliament, was placed under house arrest for treason which he denied. Medvedchuk has close personal ties with Putin, his daughter’s godfather.
Without mentioning Medvedchuk by name, Putin lamented what he described as the ongoing “cleansing” of the Ukrainian political arena, saying those who promote cooperation with Russia face political retaliation.
“These selective and politically motivated decisions are aimed at cleaning up the political field of those forces which advocate a peaceful settlement of the conflict in south-eastern Ukraine and good neighborly relations with Russia,” Putin said during a speech. meeting of its Security Council.
Medvedchuk, 66, is accused of transferring oil and gas production licenses from one of the Crimean fields to Russian authorities.
Russia annexed the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea in 2014 following the ouster of former Ukrainian president friend of Moscow and also threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have been killed in the seven years of fighting that devastated the industrial heart of the east of the country, known as the Donbass.
The treason charges are the latest installment in a sweeping campaign against Medvedchuk launched by Ukrainian authorities in February, when his financial assets were frozen for three years. In February, authorities also shut down three pro-Russian TV channels, 112, Zik and NewsOne, controlled by Medvedchuk.
In an article published on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy defended the actions against Medvedchuk’s assets as a legitimate effort to prevent him from damaging the country and eroding its security.