A Kiev court has prolonged the house arrest of Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of Ukraine’s most popular opposition party, after new criminal charges were filed that accuse the politician of aiding terrorism in the country’s east.
This latest case comes on top of a high treason accusation levelled against Medvedchuk in May, for which he has had his freedom restricted since that same month. The politician says that the criminal charges against him are trumped-up and are the result of falsifications.
According to the Ukrainian authorities, Medvedchuk conspired with Moscow to disrupt coal supplies to Ukraine from South Africa in 2014. Kiev believes that Medvedchuk created obstacles to the conclusion of the South African contract “using the powers of the National Bank and law enforcement agencies.” He then allegedly facilitated coal supplies from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Both of these regions are currently at war with Kiev. Because of this, he is accused of “treason” and “aiding terrorism.”
“Not a single piece of evidence has been presented,” Medvedchuk said after the court hearing on Tuesday, calling it an “absurdity” and accusing the court of being instructed by the president’s office. He will now be under house arrest until December 7, although this date will likely be extended.
Medvedchuk is the leader of the second-largest party in Ukraine’s parliament, Opposition Platform – For Life. Earlier this year, in May, he was charged with ‘high treason’ and the attempted theft of national resources in Crimea, the peninsula that was reabsorbed into Russia in 2014 but is recognized by most of the world as part of Ukraine. He has claimed the accusations are politically motivated and has pointed to the increasing popularity of his party as the reason.
“This is all the result of falsifications,” he said on Tuesday. “Both the first and second cases are due to the fabrication of criminal prosecution against me as a representative of the opposition.”
In August, Medvedchuk’s lawyer, Rinat Kuzmin, revealed that the politician had filed a petition to the European Court of Human Rights over his right to “a fair trial, and of liberty and personal security.”
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