Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) on Monday posted a video online of Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of Ukraine’s largest opposition party who has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the video, Medvedchuk asked to be handed over to Moscow in exchange for Ukrainian soldiers and civilians in the besieged city of Mariupol.
“I want to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to exchange me for Ukrainian defenders and residents of Mariupol,” Medvedchuk said in the video.
Russia has said it cleared all urban areas of Mariupol, but some Ukrainian soldiers, including members of the neo-Nazi Azov battalion, are still holding out in the Azovstal iron and steelworks plant. Russia said if the troops surrendered by a certain time on Sunday, their lives would be spared, but the deadline was rejected.
Medvedchuk was put under house arrest last year over allegations of treason. A few days after Russia invaded, Medvedchuk fled his home, but he was captured and arrested by Ukrainian forces earlier this month. After his arrest, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky floated the idea of swapping him for Ukrainian Prisoners of war.
Until very recently, Medvedchuk was the leader of Opposition Platform – For Life, Ukraine’s largest opposition party. The party denounced Russia’s invasion and stripped Medvedchuk of his leadership role after he fled house arrest. In March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky banned Opposition Platform – For Life and 10 other political parties over alleged “links” to Moscow.
Separately on Monday, Russian state media published a video of two men identified as British nationals captured fighting for Ukraine, asking to be exchanged for Medvedchuk. Since the invasion, Ukraine stepped up efforts to recruit foreign nationals to join the fight against Russia.