Ukraine returns 55 people to Russia, while Russia extradites 215. This difference seems to be mainly explained by the fact that Viktor Medvedchuk is among the detainees extradited by Ukraine.
Medvedchuk was captured with great triumph by the Ukrainian security services in April and presented to the world as a kind of trophy. Originally a Ukrainian businessman and politician, he mainly represented the interests of Russian President Putin in parliament.
He befriended them when he served as chief of staff for the Russian pro-Russian President Yanukovych. He is held responsible in Ukraine for facilitating Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
‘Godfather Putin’s daughter’
“Medvedchuk is a good friend of Putin,” correspondent Olaf Koens told RTL Breakfast News. “He is even the godfather of one of Putin’s daughters.”
Conversely, Putin would be the godfather of Medvedchuk’s children. Putin trusts Medvedchuk, and that’s important to him.
“The people in high positions are not there because of what they can do, but because he trusts them,” Russia correspondent Eva Hartog said in this extensive profile of Medvedchuk:
Medvedchuk also has a number of television stations in Ukraine, and uses them to broadcast Russian propaganda. “He is Putin’s most important broadcaster in Ukraine,” says Koens. “Moscow broadcasting boss.”
Just before the war broke out, Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest in Ukraine with an ankle bracelet for treason, but he managed to escape.
It is believed that Putin’s original plan was to appoint him as Ukraine’s new president in a successful invasion. But the war is not going according to plan and Ukraine got hold of Medvedchuk again in April.
A slap in the face for Putin, who has 215 prisoners of war left to (among other things) get his loyal friend back.
Among the prisoners released by Russia are the commander and more than a hundred fighters of the well-known Azov battalion. That is a far-right militia that was incorporated into the Ukrainian armed forces.
They delayed the Russian capture of the port city of Mariupol. The battalion hid there for weeks in the Azov steel factory, the last piece of Mariupol that Russia could not get its hands on. Until they, too, eventually had to surrender.
‘Discontent in Russia’
Not every Russian is happy with that, Koens thinks: “I read that there is a lot of dissatisfaction, especially among nationalist Russians. On the very day that a mobilization is announced, Russia releases more than two hundred prisoners.”
And then also the fighters of the Azov battalion. “They have been portrayed in the Russian press as the ultimate evil. And now they are suddenly free again.”