A bizarre 'prisoner swap' offer has been made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who in a Tuesday video address announced that Viktor Medvedchuk - long a highly visible pro-Russian member of Ukraine's parliament - has been arrested and is under confinement.
He's seen as Vladimir Putin's closest ally in the country, but hours ago "Ukraine's security service SBU posted a photo purportedly showing Mr Medvedchuk in handcuffs and wearing Ukrainian military fatigues." BBC details that "He had been under house arrest in the capital Kyiv on suspicion of treason - but escaped soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February." And now Zelensky wants to swap Putin's 'right-hand oligarch' for captured Ukrainian soldiers.
Zelensky's official telegram account announces that SBU caught the fugitive oligarch and Putin's close friend Viktor Medvedchuk. Camouflage and all. pic.twitter.com/DkWa5xlOEq— Christo Grozev (@christogrozev) April 12, 2022
“I propose to the Russian Federation to exchange 'your guy' for our boys and our girls who are now in Russian captivity. It is therefore important that our law enforcement and military also consider this possibility,” Zelensky said in the video address.
"We will establish the full truth about all these savages. No matter how much time and effort it takes, we will find them all,” Zelensky said, warning also that Ukrainian forces will capture many more soldiers and Russia sympathizers such as Medvedchuk.
He stressed this should be taken as a "warning" - saying, "Let Medvedchuk be an example for you."
However, it appears Zelensky is aware of the criticism he will face over the whole spectacle of rounding up civilian opposition leaders who were once members of parliament. As The Hill points out:
Zelensky on Tuesday said it was “especially cynical” that Medvedchuk was wearing military camouflage when he was detained, arguing that wearing such clothes means he “falls under the rules of wartime.”
“I think it is especially cynical of him to use military camouflage. He tried to disguise himself like that. Such a ‘soldier.’ Such a ‘patriot,’” Zelensky said.
“Well, if Medvedchuk chose a military uniform for himself, he falls under the rules of wartime,” Zelensky stressed.
“Even the former oligarch did not escape, not to mention much more ordinary criminals from the Russian boondocks. We will get everyone,” Zelensky said. The 'offer' of a major prisoner swap comes after it's been widely reported that Kiev authorities are locking up the political opposition on the mere basis of being pro-Russian or seen as sympathetic to Moscow.
In recent weeks Ukrainian forces have also been accused of torture and carrying out field executions of captured Russian soldiers. Western mainstream media has begun confirming some instances, however, it's still not been subject of much media attention, given also public sympathies across Europe and the US lie with the Ukrainians, causing this tragic and brutal element of the war to be ignored.