President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has revoked the Ukrainian citizenship of four political figures, including pro-Kremlin Viktor Medvedchuk, who was transferred to Russia last year in a prisoner swap deal.
“I have decided to terminate the citizenship of four persons: Andriy Leonidovych Derkach, Taras Romanovych Kozak, Renat Raveliyovych Kuzmin and Viktor Volodymyrovych Medvedchuk,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Tuesday.
“If people’s deputies choose to serve not the people of Ukraine, but the murderers who came to Ukraine, our actions will be appropriate.”
Medvedchuk, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, headed a banned pro-Russian party the Opposition Platform – For Life in Ukraine and was facing treason charges before being transferred to Moscow in September.
He met Putin for the first time in 2003 and managed the election campaign of Viktor Yanukovich, a fiercely pro-Moscow presidential candidate.
Yanukovich’s victory in the 2004 vote sparked the Orange Revolution, Ukraine’s first pro-Western revolt, whose organisers accused Medvedchuk of rigging the vote.
A win by rival candidate Viktor Yushchenko in a repeat run-off election marked Medvedchuk’s temporary downfall, but he started putting together a media empire that would eventually include three television networks and a string of publications.
His unimpeded escape when Russia invaded Ukraine in February was seen as a sign of the weakness of Zelenskyy’s government amid the chaos and uncertainty of the war’s first days.
He was captured in April by Ukraine’s special services and accused of high treason for attempting to steal natural resources from Russia-annexed Crimea and handing Ukrainian military secrets to Moscow.
He was one of more than 50 prisoners handed over to Russia in September in exchange for 215 Ukrainian imprisoned soldiers.
Kozak and Kuzmin had been elected to Ukraine’s parliament as members of Medvedchuk’s party.
The United States imposed sanctions on Kozak, the owner of three TV channels, in January 2022 for the alleged spreading of Russian disinformation, after Kyiv sought his arrest on treason charges.
Ukraine has also charged Kuzmin with high treason.
Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker also sanctioned by Washington, was charged in the US in December with money laundering and sanctions violations.
He had been accused of being a Russian agent and of helping Moscow interfere in the US presidential election in 2020.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA