Pro-Russian lawmaker leaves Ukraine prosecutors after reading charges

Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of Opposition Platform - For Life political party, speaks with journalists outside the office of the Prosecutor General in Kyiv, Ukraine May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

KYIV (Reuters) - Viktor Medvedchuk, the Kremlin's most prominent ally in Ukraine, left the office of the Prosecutor General on Wednesday after reading the charges against him without being detained, Interfax news agency reported.

Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday put Medvedchuk under formal suspicion for high treason as part of a crackdown on his circle that has fuelled tensions between Kyiv and Moscow.

Prosecutors have said they are seeking to detain the opposition party leader and businessman on suspicion of treason and the attempted plundering of national resources in Crimea, the territory that was annexed by Russia in 2014.

"I read (the suspicion) and took a copy," Interfax quoted Medvedchuk as saying after leaving the prosecutors' office.

"The accusations are unfounded, unsubstantiated and, in general, they can be called political," he added.

Medvedchuk's party has said the treason investigation and raids on his home were revenge for the politician's exposure of the government's failings. In a separate statement, Medvedchuk said the treason case was "fabricated."

"Today Medvedchuk is the most annoying element for the authorities," Medvedchuk's party co-chair, Vadym Rabinovich, said in a statement. "The accusations that were brought against him are erroneous and criminal."

Tuesday's move was part of a widening crackdown against Medvedchuk that began in February when he and associates were put under sanctions by Ukraine's president 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.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday Moscow would not interfere in Medvedchuk's case, but that it is "watching this in the most careful way and would like to make sure that there are no political motives behind this case."

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.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Dmitry Antonov in Moscow; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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