Starting with mid-January, 2023, when he authored an article in Izvestiya, ex-Ukrainian oligarch and politician Viktor Medvedchuk has been active in the Russian media, promoting his idea of an anti-Zelensky Ukrainian movement encompassing those living in Ukraine as well as those residing outside of it. Medvedchuk, without saying so openly, likely envisions himself as this movement's leader. Medvedchuk had been jailed in Ukraine and was freed as part of a prisoner exchange in September 2022. His personal relationship with Vladimir Putin is close, and the Russian leader is the godfather to one of Medvedchuk's daughters. Medvedchuk claims that Ukraine, as a nation dependent of the West, is no longer a sovereign state and that now, the main goal is to ensure the fate of Ukrainians. This approach dovetails with Putin's political approach.
Although the strategy of supporting a movement in exile that can help defeat, and then replace, a hostile regime was employed by both sides in the Cold War, there has been little enthusiasm in Russia for Medvedchuk's ambitions. In a poll that appeared on February 1, 2023, in Eadaily.com, the overwhelming majority of respondents rejected the idea. They referred to Medvedchuk as a loser support for whom would be a repeat of Russia's backing of Viktor Yanukovich, another pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, who ended up in exile in Russia.
MEMRI report on Medvedchuk's attempt to project himself as an important player in Ukraine and reactions to it follows below:
Medvedchuk with Putin in 2019 (Source: Kommersant.ru)
The following article, titled "'I am a Ukrainian Politician,' Medvedchuk on How to Solve the Ukrainian Problem," summarizes the exiled politician's media blitz:
On Ukraine's Economy
Medvedchuk observed that today the Ukrainian economy is destroyed: "The drop in [Ukraine's] GDP today is more than 30%. I will provide you with an example. When there was a global crisis back in 2008-2009, this drop was 14%. And they restored [the previous level] by 2013. And until 2019-2021, we could not reach indicators we had in 2013. Therefore, there is no economy," he stated.
According to Medvedchuk, the decline in the production level in Ukraine is 70%, while unemployment rate reached 35%. "Today there is a fall in agriculture, in industry, but a rise in prices. All this shows that no social programs can be implemented. I will give you an example: today the minimum pension is 57 USD. And the minimum subsistence is 70 USD."
On The Future Of Ukraine
In Medvedchuk's opinion, in Ukraine "there is, in fact, no state because the state policy is based on a policy of neo-Nazism, which is professed by Zelensky and his entourage. [...] As long as neo-Nazism dominates the country, I believe that it is not only incorrect, it is wrong to talk about the future of such a country," added the politician.
Viktor Medvedchuk insists that today one should not raise the issue of Ukraine's future, nor think about the future of Ukraine, but rather be concerned about the future of the Ukrainians.
"I suggest not raising the question of what the future of Ukraine will be. Because today, in fact, Ukraine does not exist. There is no such state. I am an expert in constitutional law. The Constitution reads that Ukraine is an independent, sovereign, democratic, legal and social state. The current status of Ukraine doesn't meet any of these demands. It has ceased to be an independent and sovereign country, because since 2014 it has been completely under external control by the West, the U.S. and Britain," said Medvedchuk.
On Ukraine's Main Problem
In Viktor Medvedchuk's opinion, Ukraine's big problem is that the country lacks an idea.
"Do you know what's the Ukraine's problem today? There are leaders but no ideas. That is the problem. This is the problem that needs to be [solved] for Ukrainians when we discuss their future," declared the politician in an interview with RT (TV).
On the other hand, he noted, the Ukrainian opposition has no problem with formulating the idea, while the issue of a leader was solvable. "We have an idea. It means that there will be leaders, and, consequently, there will be deeds. It is necessary to realize them. And how we will do it, [you ask?] Well, you will see. But the fact that we will do it (at least we will try to do it) is certain," said Medvedchuk.
On The Opposition
It is no secret that Viktor Medvedchuk has long opposed Zelensky's policies. And judging by how many Ukrainians voted for him during the last presidential election, the politician has enough supporters. The politician insists that voice of these people should be heard as well.
"There are people who oppose Zelensky's policies. This other Ukraine must be heard. It can be heard provided its representative comes along," said Medvedchuk.
He believes that Ukrainians who are eager to advance in that direction will be able to unite other compatriots.
"And talking about what this public movement will do, which representative it will elect [is too early, as] it depends on millions of people who reside in Russia, in Ukraine, and in Europe," elaborated Medvedchuk, "These are the millions who do not agree with Zelensky's actions.
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"They need to be 'inspired' today, they need to be united by common ideas, they need to be united by common representation, and then discuss the future of the Ukrainians and what they are ready to do today to make this future, as it was said back in the day, bright and unproblematic. Although there is still a long way to go and a lot, a lot to do..."
Reacting to Medvedchuk's frequent media appearances, political scientist and columnist Georgy Bovt claimed that while phenomena such as Medvedchuk were familiar, Medvedchuk had failed to supply the one essential for any successful movement – a plan of action for addressing the most burning issues. Bovt wrote:
"Ukrainian opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk announced his intention to establish a new political movement, which would unite Ukrainians who disagree with Zelensky's policies, living in Russia, Europe, and Ukraine itself. He made a statement in an interview with RT (TV) that President Volodymyr Zelensky was wrong when he said that Ukrainian society was monolithic and united against Russia.
'When he [Zelensky] claims that there is a "monolith," i.e., the Ukrainian people backing him, and that he believes that Russia must be destroyed, and the West must help in this, I say: this is not true! When we unite these people and find out their stance (for some reason I'm sure that this stance is against the ]Ukrainian] government and against Zelensky), it will be a completely different [situation].'
"Medvedchuk first put forward the idea of establishing the new political movement in an article for the newspaper Izvestiya, which was published in mid-January. In the article, he argues that Ukrainians 'in order to save the country' need to start building a democracy and engaging in civil dialogue 'without Western curators.'
"The operations of the 'Opposition Platform – For Life' party led by Medvedchuk was suspended last spring and later banned. Several criminal cases were initiated against the politician in Ukraine, including one for treason. He was under arrest for several months but was released in October following a prisoner swap between Kyiv and Moscow. Now he lives in Russia. In January [of this year], Medvedchuk was stripped of his deputy mandate and of Ukrainian citizenship. What can come of this?
"Judging by the frequency with which Viktor Medvedchuk appears in the Russian media, he does have political ambitions and expects to realize them (obviously, with Russia's help). At its best, the 'Opposition Platform' party led by him could count on 15-20% of votes of Ukrainians (which is not bad for Ukraine). In turn, Medvedchuk himself was not the last candidate to be considered for the Ukrainian presidency (not the first candidate, either).
"Be that as it may, he was not a marginal politician. His relatively apparent influence was, most likely, the reason behind the crackdown on the media he controlled. The crackdown was carried out by Zelensky's team long before the current conflict.
"Thus, there are some grounds for Medvedchuk's political ambitions, although many in Russia perceive him as a 'a pilot who has been shot down," who should be retired. In addition, since the start of the conflict there has been a dramatic shift in political preferences within Ukrainian society. Medvedchuk himself admits that even part of the parliamentary faction of his former party Opposition Platform - For Life has 'defected to Zelensky.'
"However, he is right in his own way to argue that today's situation in Ukraine does not allow for democratic elections. On the other hand, where in wartime conditions are such elections possible in principle?
"There is nothing new or unusual with the very idea of a quasi-government or, at worst, a political movement 'in exile.' History is familiar with many such examples. Such political forces are known to come to power after a regime change. As a rule, they relied on support from abroad (including financial or even military support). There is nothing new here either.
"The Soviet Union, as well as other countries, made active use of such means, crafting such entities out of politicians loyal to it. Sometimes it went successfully, as it was the case in the Baltic countries, which were incorporated into the USSR after the outbreak of the Second World War, or unsuccessfully, as it occurred in the countries of 'people's democracy,' or the so-called 'Soviet bloc,' after the end of the WW2.
"At the very outset of the 'Winter War' with Finland, a so-called 'people's government' was established in the settlement of Terijoki (now called Zelenogorsk), headed by the communist Otto Kuusinen. This government was recognized by the Soviet Union. The USSR, represented by Vyacheslav Molotov, in the presence of Stalin himself, negotiated with the new government and signed a Treaty on Mutual Assistance and Friendship.
Otto Kuusinen signs the treaty as Molotov (extreme left) as Stalin looks on (Source: Heininen.net)
"All the territorial offers to Helsinki made by Moscow at that time, 'which could not be refused,' were listed there and, naturally, satisfied. The essence of these claims came down to an exchange of territory in the interests of increasing the security of the USSR and, above all, of moving the border away from Leningrad. The course of the 'Winter War,' [between Russia and Finland in 1939-1940] however, as is well known, derailed Stalin's plans for a 'people's government' in Finland.
"As for Medvedchuk, his perceptions of the history of relations between the West, Russia, and Ukraine after the Cold War laid out in his lengthy newspaper article, differ little from the theses repeatedly outlined by Vladimir Putin. Thus, Medvedchuk remains, of course, as friendly to Russia as possible. Including in his ruthless criticism of the actions of Zelensky (who is supported by this very same West).
"However, if one were to consider this article to be a programmatic article for a planned political movement, then it lacks an actual action program per se. To state that Russo-Ukrainian relations have historically been closer than those between England and Scotland, or [between] the northern and the southern states in the U.S. is not enough these days; depicting the depth of the economic crisis in which the Ukrainian economy finds itself is not enough either (without specifying at the same time the circumstances due to which this has occurred).
"Call for integration or even more splendid rhetoric calling to reject the role of an anti-Russian puppet in the hands of the West also aren't enough. Just a criticism of Zelensky or lengthy arguments about historical issues won't facilitate a strong political movement that is truly supported by millions of Ukrainians around the world (as the stated aim goes).
"The weakness of Medvedchuk's stance is a total lack of any plans and proposals for a peace settlement and formulas, at least in general terms, of an picture of the future, for which he is trying to accomplish all this. He needs at least one or two specific theses, slogans, etc. [For instance:] under what conditions can peace be reached? Will it provide for a loss of Ukraine's territories? What about Crimea? Will Medvedchuk even recognize accession of the new territories into Russia? Should the new Ukraine maintain friendly relations with the EU and seek EU membership or, on the contrary, should it rush to the CSTO [the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization] and back to the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States that is also dominated by Russia]?
"Issues of war and peace are most urgent right now and, definitely, shouldn't be ignored. It's unthinkable to create a political movement without a political program. Although, certainly, for some people this is no reason not to try. In addition, party and movement agendas often claim one thing and then do another."
Georgy Bovt (Source: Radiokp.ru)
Eurasia Daily questioned the backing that Medvedchuk commanded:
"[E]xperience has shown that neither he nor his party has serious political weight in Ukraine – after the start of the special operation, [Medvedchuk's party] the Opposition Platform for Life was outlawed, and Medvedchuk himself ended up in the dungeons of the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service]. The sole survivors amongst his fellow party members from the parliamentary faction survived, either went on the run, or quickly 'rebranded' and now devoutly shout Bandera [Ukrainian nationalist] slogans."
The paper also raised the issue of whether Medvedchuk could be trusted:
"Many questions arise regarding the identity of Medvedchuk himself, who, even under President Kuchma, was actively working on a project to rehabilitate the Nazi extremist organization OUN-UPA, banned in the Russian Federation.
"As EADaily reported, at that time, Viktor Vladimirovich was an ardent supporter of Ukrainian nationalists, about which he himself spoke on the Lviv television broadcast. At the same time, he admitted that he had personal reasons for this, since his father was a member of the OUN."
Another comment tapped into resentment over the terms of the September 2022 prisoner exchange that had freed Medvedchuk. To many, the deal appeared lopsided since Russia was releasing members of the Azov battalion that Russia had depicted as the worst, most murderous Nazis. Medvedchuk was in it for the money:
"The appearance of Viktor Medvedchuk gave rise to a lot of speculation, given the history of the belief recently held by the average reader, following the scandalous exchange for the 'Azov' [Battalion members], that his place should be in unobtrusive retirement. Especially in terms of the fact that the bankrupt Ukrainian politician has taken up the old ways: announcing the need to create a Ukrainian government in exile, he is ready, they say, to master the billions that could be allocated for a new political illusion."
If Medvedchuk was a dead horse, how had he gained access to the Russian media? Eurasia Daily speculated about his patron and again questioned Medvedchuk's reliability:
"Meanwhile, after an article in Izvestiya, behind whose columns some seers sought to perceive the hand of either Vladislav Surkov, or Dmitry Kozak [both officials were formerly in charge of policy in Ukraine], Medvedchuk also gave an interview to RT. Of course, the nature of the publication often influences the experienced interviewee, who tends to be flexible in asserting his own views. But the impression was created that the former leader of the Opposition Platform for Life Party, which collected the votes only from southeastern Ukraine [...] clearly corrected his initial point of view on the go.
"It is possible that such an evolution is associated with a clearly ambivalent reaction to his first political opus. Moreover, a negative reaction was noted not only in public intellectual circles, but also in rather high spheres."
But perhaps the elephant in the room is that after a year of conflict, many in Russia have little use for Ukrainians, even pro-Russian ones:
"The essence of the new theses from Medvedchuk is that, in his opinion, the state of Ukraine no longer exists and it is simply useless to revive anything on the current basis. Even as a result of successful military operations. The page is turned upside down. And this state may not be on the map at all. Therefore, the main thing is the fate of the inhabitants themselves, the citizens of present-day Ukraine, their future and prospects. The state and the population in Medvedchuk's interpretation are separated from each other... Such is the new narrative about the fraternal people, that for many years sent other fraternal people 'to the gibbet.'"
 Eadaily.com, February 1, 2023.
 Aif.ru, January 26, 2023.
 Bfm.ru, January 26, 2023.
 Eadaily.com, January 26, 2023.
 The UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) was formed by OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) fought against the Soviet Union during World War II.
 Eadaily.com, January 26, 2023.
 Life.ru, January 28, 2023.
 Eadaily.com, January 26, 2023.