Ukrainian opposition leader and Putin’s ally under house arrest

Kiev, Ukraine (AP) – A senior Ukrainian opposition politician with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin was under house arrest on Thursday, days after being charged with treason.

Viktor Medvedchuk, who heads the Opposition Platform for Life party, the largest opposition force in parliament, denies the charges against him last week and says they are politically motivated. Medvedchuk, who has close personal ties to Putin, the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter, could face 15 years in prison if tried and convicted.

Prosecutors had asked a Kiev court to put Medvedchuk in jail, but a judge ordered house arrest instead.

Medvedchuk, 66, is accused of transferring oil and gas production licenses from one of the Crimean fields to Russian authorities. Russia annexed the Black Sea Peninsula in 2014, a few weeks after the former Ukrainian president, friend of Moscow, was ousted by protesters.

Medvedchuk is also accused of leaking secret data about the deployment of Ukrainian military units last year.

The new charges are part of a larger campaign against Medvedchuk launched by Ukrainian 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, controlled by Medvedchuk.

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