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Putin vows response after ally probed for treason in Ukraine

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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on May 14, 2021. – Vladimir Putin on May 14, 2021 said Moscow would “respond” after a Ukrainian court placed the Kremlin chief’s close ally under house arrest in a treason case. (Photo by Sergei ILYIN / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said Moscow would respond in a timely fashion after the Kremlin chief’s close ally in Ukraine was placed under house arrest in a treason case.

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“Taking into account all the threats that are being created for us, we will have to respond to this properly and in a timely fashion,” Putin said at a meeting of his security council, apparently referring to the prosecution of Viktor Medvedchuk, a Kremlin-friendly Ukrainian lawmaker.

He added that Ukraine was clearly carrying out a “clean-up of the political landscape”.

On Thursday, a court in Ukraine placed Medvedchuk on house arrest until July 9. He is accused of attempting to steal natural resources from Russia-annexed Crimea and of handing Ukrainian military secrets to Russia.

The lawmaker said the charges against him were politically motivated and punishment for his stance.

“For political reasons some are selectively blamed for working with Russia in the economic sphere, although many, including those of the country’s top political leadership, have for many years been actively working in Russia,” Putin said.

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“The decisions are clearly political and selective,” he added.

Medvedchuk faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The 66-year-old business tycoon, who counts Putin among his personal friends, is a controversial figure in Ukraine for his ties to Moscow, which has backed separatists in a years-long conflict with Kiev.

Medvedchuk is one of Ukraine’s richest people, with Forbes estimating his net worth at $620 million. He has said Putin is godfather to his youngest daughter Darya.

Ukraine has been fighting Russia-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014.

The fighting has claimed more than 13,000 lives, according to the United Nations.

Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of sending troops and arms across the border. The Kremlin has denied the charges.

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