Viktor Medvedchuk, a prominent ally of the Kremlin in Ukraine, has been formally put under suspicion for high treason and the attempted theft of national resources in annexed Crimea, Ukrainian media reported on Tuesday, citing prosecutors.
The move is part of a widening crackdown against Medvedchuk, an opposition lawmaker and businessman, that began in February when he and associates were put under sanctions and three television channels owned by an ally were forced off air.
It comes after months of tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over a build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border and rising clashes in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has sharply criticised the crackdown on Medvedchuk.
Medvedchuk could not immediately be reached for comment. He has previously denied all wrongdoing and described the crackdown against him and his associates as illegal and designed to deflect from the Ukrainian government’s policy blunders.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said in a statement that she had put her signature “on the reports of suspicion of two deputies of the Ukrainian Parliament – M and K.”
Interfax Ukraine and other media said the initials referred to Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak, the owner of the three television channels that were put under sanctions in February. Kozak could not immediately be reached for comment.
Venediktova is due to give a news conference at 1500 GMT alongside the head of the state security service.
Medvedchuk is a Ukrainian citizen but has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has said the Russian leader is godfather to his daughter. The Kremlin in February said it was alarmed by the sanctions against him.