Viktor Medvedchuk. Picture: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Viktor Medvedchuk. Picture: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Kiev — Kiev prosecutors on Tuesday said they had launched a treason investigation into a politician close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin over calls to grant autonomy to regions in eastern Ukraine.

Viktor Medvedchuk, 64, is accused of “seeking to undermine the territorial integrity” of Ukraine and “high treason”, a spokesperson for the prosecution service Larisa Sargan told AFP.

The probe relates to a speech at an opposition conference in January , in which he said pro-Russian separatist territories should have their own government and parliament.

Medvedchuk said such an autonomous region would allow an end to hostilities between and the government and pro-Moscow rebels which has left some 13,000 dead over the past five years.

The investigation would be carried out by the SBU, or security services, Sargan said.

The pro-Russian Opposition Platform — For Life — at which Medvedchuk was speaking denounced the accusations as “delusional”.

The probe had been ordered by pro-Western authorities ahead of presidential elections due shortly, the group said.

Former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014 following a bloody pro-West uprising, was in January found guilty of high treason.

The former leader, who now lives in Russia, was sentenced in absentia to 13 years in prison for asking Putin to send troops into Ukraine.

Medvedchuk, head of Ukraine’s presidential administration from 2002 to 2005, has represented Kiev in talks with rebels in the pro-Russian east. It was on his suggestion that Putin held talks with the de facto leaders of the separatist regions for the first time in 2017.

Moscow has publicly thanked Medvedchuk, who is targeted by US sanctions, for his role in the negotiations. Medvedchuk is the only Ukrainian whose plane is allowed to fly directly between Ukraine and Russia, despite a ban introduced in 2015, according to local media.