The detained friend is the controversial Ukrainian businessman and politician Viktor Medvedchuk, 67, who is highly pro-Russian and is considered Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine.
A Russian spokesman said Medvedchuk was not a Russian citizen, but a foreign politician who would have nothing to do with the war in Ukraine. “We have absolutely no idea if he wants Russia to be involved in trying to solve the defamation affair against him,” the spokesman said.
Medvedchuk, who led the opposition party, was arrested after a special operation by Ukraine’s secret service. According to the agency, he intended to flee to Moscow via Transnistria, a pro-Russian renegade region of Moldova on the border with Ukraine. He was intercepted near Kiev.
Rich Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest in May last year. The Ukrainian judiciary accused him, among other things, of financing terrorism and treason, because he would pass on military secrets to Moscow. In late February, four days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he managed to escape.
Putin considers Medvedchuk a “personal friend” and godfather of his youngest daughter.