In April, Ukraine captured Viktor Medvedchuk - a close confidant of Putin. Now he could be extradited to Russia in exchange for fighters from the Azov regiment. At least Moscow wants to check that, as a high-ranking MP says.
Russia is considering exchanging captured fighters from Ukraine's Azov regiment for pro-Russian businessman Viktor Medvedchuk. "We will examine the issue," said the Russian deputy and negotiator in the negotiations with Kyiv, Leonid Slutsky, on Saturday, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
He later explained in his blog on the Telegram news channel that the fighters would have to be brought to justice in any case. There is no way around a tribunal, he stressed. Competent people would have to decide whether Medvedchuk should be replaced. Only recently Slutski had called for the death penalty for the fighters.
Medvedchuk is considered a confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to the entrepreneur, the head of the Kremlin is the godfather of his youngest daughter. The Ukrainian politician and oligarch, who is one of the richest people in the country, was accused of treason in Ukraine last year and placed under house arrest.
Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, Medvedchuk went into hiding before being arrested in mid-April. Zelenskyi then offered Moscow to exchange Medvedchuk for Ukrainian prisoners of war. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the time that Medvedchuk was "not a Russian citizen".
On Friday, Russia reported the "complete liberation" of the Azov steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine. The last soldiers in the industrial complex, including members of the Azov regiment, had surrendered, the Russian army said - a total of 2,439 people are said to be involved.
The Azov regiment is described by Moscow as "neo-Nazi". Next Thursday, Russia's highest court is due to consider an application to classify the regiment as a "terrorist organization," which could make it more difficult to exchange these prisoners. The head of the Russian parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, spoke out against a general exchange of prisoners by the fighters.