Ukraine prosecutors seek $11 million bail for pro-Russian lawmaker

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) -Ukrainian prosecutors asked a Kyiv court on Thursday to set bail for prominent pro-Russian lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk at 300 million hryvnia ($10.85 million) or detain him in a treason case.

Medvedchuk, who promotes closer ties with Moscow and says President Vladimir Putin is godfather to his daughter, is widely seen as Russia's most prominent political ally in Kyiv.

He was notified this week that he is suspected of treason and attempting to plunder national wealth in Crimea, a part of Ukraine which Russia annexed in 2014. He says the charges are trumped up to silence his criticism of government policy.

"The prosecutor's office has filed a petition for the selection of a preventive measure in the form of detention with the alternative of posting bail," a statement from the prosecutor's office said. The court is expected to deliberate on the issue on Thursday afternoon.

Medvedchuk, who says he has known Putin for decades, gained a high political profile by continuing to hold meetings with the Russian leader after 2014, when Moscow seized and annexed Crimea and supported a separatist revolt in east Ukraine.

The Kremlin has said in the past that Putin has great respect for Medvedchuk and values his role as an intermediary with Kyiv. 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".

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have been increasingly tense in recent months, with Russia having massed additional troops near the border and violence escalating in the unresolved separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The treason case is part of a crackdown against Medvedchuk that began in February when he and several associates were put under sanctions by Ukraine's president and three television channels owned by an ally were forced off air.

($1 = 27.6394 hryvnias)

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Ilya ZhegulevWriting by Matthias WilliamsEditing by Peter Graff)

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