Ukraine charges Putin ally Medvedchuk with treason

<p>KYIV, Ukraine &mdash; Ukraine has charged indicted a top opposition figure who is a close ally of Russia’s president with treason and attempts to steal natural resources from Russia-annexed Crimea.</p>
<p>Along with the Tuesday indictment of Viktor Medvedchuk, security service agents also searched his house in the capital Kyiv.</p>
<p>Prosecutor-General Irina Venediktova said that charges under several articles were brought against Medvedchuk business partner Taras Kozak. The charges carry potential sentences of up to 15 years.</p>
<p>Medvedchuk is accused of transferring oil and gas production licenses from one of the fields in Crimea to Russian authorities; Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.</p>
<p>"Medvedchuk, as the organizer of illegal activities, having strong ties with the top leadership of the Russian Federation, began subversive activities against Ukraine, including in the economic sphere,” Venediktova said at a briefing in Kiev.</p>
<p>Medvedchuk is also charged with disclosing secret data on the deployment of Ukrainian military unites last year.</p>
<p>The 66-year-old heads the political council of the pro-Russian opposition party Opposition Platform – For Life. It is the largest opposition group in the parliament, with 44 of the 450 seats.</p>
<p>He has close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.</p>
<p>The new charges are part of a broader campaign against Medvedchuk launched by authorities in February, when his financial assets were frozen for three years. In February, authorities also shut down three pro-Russian TV channels, 112, Zik and NewsOne, which Medvedchuk controlled. </p>
<p>His party called the new charges against Medvedchuk “an open and cynical political reprisal."</p>