Kremlin prepared two ‘puppet leaderships’ for Ukraine ahead of invasion — media reports
Платформа з фігурою російського диктатора Володимира Путіна, який приймає криваву ванну, на карнавалі в Дюссельдорфі, Німеччина, 20 лютого (Photo:REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen)
Russia had at least two plans to “rule” Ukraine after effecting regime change in the country — ones associated with former pro-Russian MP Viktor Medvedchuk and former President Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper reported on Feb. 28.
According to a high-ranking source in the Ukrainian intelligence, the Kremlin did not have “any final plan of who would be appointed to which position,” but Medvedchuk, the former member of the outlawed Opposition Platform — For Life (OPZZh) party, who is suspected of treason, “saw himself in the top roles.”
Volodymyr Sivkovych, the National Security and Defense Council’s deputy secretary under Yanukovych’s presidency, who is currently hiding in Russia, was preparing to become the “manager” of the puppet “authority.”
Interlocutors of the newspaper say that Medvedchuk was one of the few who knew exactly about the Russian invasion, and even participated in its preparation.
On Feb. 23, 2022, he suddenly began rescheduling meetings with associates, claiming to be “busy,” even though he was supposed to be under house arrest at that time.
Medvedchuk stopped communicating early on Feb. 24 and appeared in the OPZZh’s party chat only on Feb. 26, when Illia Kyva, who had publicly supported Russian aggression, had to be expelled from the faction.
Medvedchuk then managed to persuade the OPZZh faction’s members and postpone Kyva’s expulsion.
According to the Ukrainian special services, the invaders planned that the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, once surrounded by Russian troops, would remove its chairman, Ruslan Stefanchuk, on Feb. 27, and Medvedchuk would become “spokesman” and “acting president,” the newspaper reports.
After the Russian plans failed and Medvedchuk disappeared, Russia came up with “plan B” — fugitive former President Viktor Yanukovych. He tried to challenge the Verkhovna Rada’s act on his self-removal through the Kyiv District Administrative Court.
“After Medvedchuk’s ‘disappearance,’ the Russians did consider the option of returning Yanukovych to Ukraine,” the newspaper’s sources in the SBU security service said.
“He was to have announced again that he is the ‘legitimate’ (president) and other such nonsense.”
On Feb. 27, 2022, days after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Medvedchuk escaped from house arrest. He was charged with high treason, in connection with the “coal case,” which concerns Ukraine purchasing coal from Russian proxies in Donbas in 2014-2015.
On April 12, Medvedchuk was arrested at the border while attempting to flee the country, for breaching the terms of his house arrest.
On April 16, a court in Lviv arrested Medvedchuk, with no bail.
The biggest prisoner swap of the war so far took place on Sept. 21, 2022, when 215 people were freed from Russian captivity. Of them, 108 were defenders of Azovstal, including five commanders.
The Azovstal commanders were exchanged for 55 Russian military personnel, while Ukraine handed over Medvedchuk, a former oligarch and a personal friend of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
On Jan. 10, 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed that pro-Russian MPs from the OPZZh party Viktor Medvedchuk, Taras Kozak, Renat Kuzmin and Andriy Derkach had been stripped of their Ukrainian citizenship.
On Jan. 13, the Verkhovna Rada voted to deprive them of their deputy’s seats.
On Feb. 17, Medvedchuk said that he had been “forced” to live in Moscow.
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