Medvedchuk's tough year. How OPZZH leader visited Venediktova and what will happen to him next
On May 11, the Prosecutor General's Office announced the suspicion of high treason to one of the leaders of the OPZZH party Viktor Medvedchuk and his faithful "money bag," People's Deputy Taras Kozak. Perhaps this decision produced slightly less resonance than the "holy trio" of TV channels closing, but in reality, it is a sensation. It's now finally clear that Medvedchuk is not intimidated and not only being squeezed out of his business; the authorities have taken him seriously and are going to bring the matter either to the point of imprisonment or force him to emigrate to Russia. The next day, the politician arrived at the Prosecutor General's Office, where he was handed a notice of suspicion.
Find out how the Office of the President finishes off Putin's fellow sponsor, why this can help Volodymyr Zelenskyi win the elections again, and what kind of redistribution the collapse of the OPZZH party will lead to on the political front.
Medvedchuk's tough days
On May 9, a Rubryka journalist met Medvedchuk and his loyal ally Vadym Rabinovych at an impromptu motor rally organized by the OPZZH party in honor of Victory Day in the center of Kyiv. Both politicians seemed cheerful and handed out comments to journalists approaching them. Two days later, it turned out that the SBU might've already spoiled this feast of life by handing the note of suspicion, but decided not to put on a show and wait until the end of the weekend.
This decision may have been correct, but the show still happened: on May 11, intelligence officers came with searches to the OPZZH party office and to the street in Kyiv, where Medvedchuk lives, to hand him a notice of suspicion. An entire team of lawyers and "men in black" arrived at the scene, who declared that they were the people's deputy's neighbors who would guard his property. Medvedchuk himself was not at home: as it turned out the next day, he and his wife Oksana Marchenko were allegedly resting outside Kyiv that day.
Soon after the searches started, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova announced that she had signed a suspicion of treason to Medvedchuk and Kozak. As it turned out soon at a joint briefing of the Prosecutor General and the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov, there are complaints against the people's deputies on three points at once:
- The Crimean gas field "Hlyboke," which, according to the investigation, is under Medvedchuk's control;
- Allegedly, Medvedchuk gave data on the whereabouts of a secret military unit to Russia;
- Preparation of a "Luch" project. According to the SBU, through this organization, the Russian Federation can collect the personal data of Ukrainians to recruit them and influence the country's domestic policy.
The next day, Medvedchuk came to the building of the Prosecutor General's Office, where he was to be handed a notice of suspicion.
"I cannot comment on the charges about any deposits, I haven't read the suspicion, they haven't handed it to me. I view all this as political repression," the politician said to the journalists who surrounded him.
Two and a half hours later, Medvedchuk left the building and said that he had got acquainted with the suspicion of treason, but the document wasn't handed over to him.
"They gave me not a notice of suspicion, but a copy of the suspicion. Only 5 volumes of the case. I'm not going to leave Ukraine," Medvechuk said jaunty, and left home.
However, if things go in a similar vein, Medvedchuk will still have to consider emigration. And it'll be very beneficial not only to the President's Office but also to his direct competitors in the electoral field.
"The flywheel is spinning, and these cases had to be investigated. This is the objective side of the process. On the other hand, we can face each of the politicians with something. But Medvedchuk looks like the most convenient whipping boy. Among politicians, he wasn't the first to be hit by the new government. There was also Poroshenko, but he is less convenient because he's not so toxic for a large part of the population. And he has a rather active passionary support group, which Medvedchuk doesn't have. Besides, the cases incriminated to him are what society will approve of. Corruption still needs to be proven, and treason is something that many people will believe in. Therefore, the authorities will concentrate on him," political expert Marian Oshchanovskyi explained to Rubryka.
"Why did he stay? Putin obviously needs him in Ukraine, not in Russia. Besides him, there are no entrusted people here to transfer this responsibility to. He needs his own man here. Moreover, Medvedchuk needs to continue his political activities. Previously, he had three large channels, but now he doesn't, so this business is also profitable for him to some extent," the expert adds.
"Why did they decide to attack Medvedchuk right now? There are several options at once. First, it's a logical continuation of the actions, launched by the President's Office back in February. Secondly, negotiations with Russia are at a standstill: no progress, no exchanges, nothing. If he's arrested, it will become a serious trump card; getting Medvedchuk out will be a matter of principle for Putin. Third, relations with the United States. No one knows what Zelenskyi and Blinken agreed on. Who can guarantee that the US didn't demand his 'head'? Nobody," political expert Andrii Vershinin explained in a commentary to Rubryka.
Zelenskyi already started preparing for elections, and Akhmetov will take revenge
The collapse of the "Opposition Bloc" party has become one of Rinat Akhmetov's most painful failures on the political front in recent years. Despite the conflicts at the top of the Oppoplatform, which continues to be torn in two between the Medvedchuk-Rabinovych and Liovochkin-Boiko group, it has proved to be very viable to increase ratings.
Frontman Yurii Boiko has staked out the 3rd-4th place in the rating of the most popular politicians in Ukraine, and the Oppoplatform itself performed very well in the last local elections.
It was clear that in the next parliamentary elections, the OPZZH party would create serious difficulties for the ruling party and could bite off an immense piece in the southeast of Ukraine. At the same time, the Office of the President and Zelenskyi established a very fruitful relationship with Akhmetov, who lost much of his influence inside parliament; a whole parliamentary group and Illia Pavliuk's men inside the Servant of the People faction are still focused on him, but it's still not quite what one of the most powerful people in Ukraine could get.
It seems that the interests of the authorities and the oligarch could converge precisely at this point. In early May, Akhmetov's close friend Borys Kolesnikov announced the creation of a new party "Ukraine Is Our Home." This is a clear claim for revenge on the hypothetically "white-blue" field.
How can this be beneficial to the Office of the President? Akhmetov is not considered close to Russia, he makes billions on the Ukrainian energy sector, in particular on compensations from the state for "green" tariffs. In addition, the oligarch lost the most from the occupation of Donbas, so he clearly won't become the second Medvedchuk.
Meanwhile, there will certainly be a "leftist" party in Ukraine with a pro-Russian bias, the only question is how radical it will be and who'll be the real beneficiary of this project. If the Office of the President succeeds in introducing a controlled "pro-Russian" force into parliament, with which they could conduct a dialogue in the next convocation, it will become a serious success. Especially when you consider that the number of presidential force's deputies in the next convocation raises great concerns.
What will happen to Medvedchuk next?
Medvedchuk's case is a story with several outcomes at once. Perhaps the government is really determined to send the leader of the OPZZH party to jail or force him to emigrate to Russia. In this case, there will certainly be a sequel, but in this case, the politician has an excellent example of Petro Poroshenko, who was able to drag out criminal proceedings against him to such an extent that, it seems, the authorities were tired of fighting him.
In addition, it's a great way to PR, so Medvedchuk will clearly stay in Ukraine until the very end. However, the prison is unlikely to make him a national hero.
"For a short period, he'll become a media celebrity and almost the major opposition figure. But from a more distant perspective, I don't think that he'll receive political dividends from this. An analogy can be drawn with Tymoshenko, who was imprisoned, and her political assets began to fade away quickly. She came out already forgotten by many and with a much lower rating. Medvedchuk will gain political dividends on this matter, but if he's imprisoned, then, I think, history will repeat itself; at some point, he won't receive bonuses at the end," political analyst Oshchanovskyi said.