Viktor Medvedchuk, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s right-hand man in Ukraine, is an anomaly in Ukrainian politics.

It would seem that two pro-Western revolutions and Russia’s war against Ukraine – as a result of which pro-Kremlin sentiment in the country has drastically fallen – should have ended Medvedchuk’s political career long ago.

But Medvedchuk seems to be as strong as ever. Moreover, he even appears to be on the ascendant.

Apart from benefiting from his close partnership with Putin, Medvedchuk has enjoyed good relations with most Ukrainian presidents, including Petro Poroshenko, and with Yulia Tymoshenko when she was prime minister, according to analysts and sources interviewed by the Kyiv Post. The only president he did not get on with was the country’s third, Victor Yushchenko.


Since the 1990s, he has managed to build a business empire, and has been accused of rent-seeking and profiteering from his ties to the government.

And unlike some other pro-Russian political heavyweights, he has also managed to escape criminal charges.

Medvedchuk did not respond to repeated requests for comment or an interview for this story.

Soviet years

Medvedchuk was born in 1954 in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai, where his Ukrainian-born father had been exiled on the accusation of having ties with Ukrainian nationalists – an ironic fact, given his son’s hostile attitude to Ukrainian nationalism.

During his school and college years, Medvedchuk was a member of a paramilitary unit named after Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police. The unit was a part of the Komsomol, the Communist Party’s youth league. The unit helped the police and was under the supervision of the Interior Ministry and the KGB, the Soviet Union’s notorious security service.

In 1974, Medvedchuk was sentenced to two years in jail for beating a teenager during a raid by the paramilitary unit. Later, however, the sentence was canceled by another court. After this information was published in a 2001 book about Medvedchuk, he sued the author and the publishing house, seeking to refute this and 98 other statements from the book. He initially won the case, but in 2007 the Supreme Court canceled the earlier rulings and ruled in favor of the author.


Medvedchuk became a state-appointed lawyer in 1978. He was defending Ukrainian poet and dissident Vasyl Stus, who was sentenced to 10 years of compulsory labor for “anti-Soviet propaganda” and died in prison in 1985. Medvedchuk has been criticized for his role in the process: Appointed to defend the poet, Medvedchuk instead declared Stus’ guilt in court.

To that, Medvedchuk said in 2012 that he couldn’t save Stus because “the rulings in such cases were made not in court, but in the (Communist) Party and in the KGB.”

Medvedchuk’s critics often speculate that his rise in politics and business was due to his alleged cooperation with the KGB, which he denies. On one of the tapes allegedly recorded by security officer Mykola Melnychenko in ex-President Leonid Kuchma’s office during his second term, a man sounding like lawmaker Andriy Derkach refers to Medvedchuk as “a KGB agent.”

Rise in politics

Since the 1990s, Medvedchuk has wielded a great deal of influence in the legal community.


He founded BIM, a law firm, in 1992 and was the president of the Association of Ukrainian Lawyers from 1990 to 2006. He was also a member of the High Council of Justice, the top judicial governing body that oversees appointment of judges, from 1998 to 2004 and in 2007 to 2010.

Medvedchuk’s rise in the 1990s can be attributed to his good relations with the country’s first president, Leonid Kravchuk, during his term of office from 1991 to 1994. Kravchuk and Medvedchuk also co-founded the United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine.

“I had very constructive and warm relations with Mevdedchuk,” Kravchuk told the Kyiv Post.

Medvedchuk backed Kravchuk against Leonid Kuchma in the 1994 presidential election and initially had a conflict with Kuchma when he became president.

However, later Medvedchuk made a comeback and became one of Kuchma’s main allies and his chief of staff in 2002 to 2005.

Since the Kuchma period, Mevdedchuk has enjoyed close relations with Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, who was Putin’s chief of staff in 2003 to 2005, has served one term as Russian president and has been Russia’s prime minister since 2012.

In 2004, Putin and Medvedev’s wife became the godparents of Medvedchuk’s daughter. Putin was filmed dining with Medvedchuk’s family in their residence in Crimea in 2012.


“Putin sees in Medvedchuk a hypothetical leader of Ukraine,” exiled Russian opposition politician Ilya Ponomaryov told the Kyiv Post. “He’s Putin’s main confidant in Ukraine.”

But Medvedchuk, as Putin’s main representative in the country, has allegedly come into conflict over Ukrainian policy with Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s aide responsible for Ukraine, Ponomaryov said. Mark Feygin, a high-profile Moscow-based oppositional lawyer, also claimed the two were at odds.

Orange Revolution

In 2004, Medvedchuk was accused of masterminding the voting fraud in favor of then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, which triggered the Orange Revolution, a popular protest that led to a new vote. As a result of it, Medvedchuk’s opponent, pro-Western candidate Yushchenko came to power. He denied the accusations of rigging the original vote.

After the Orange Revolution, Medvedchuk’s political fortunes plummeted: he left public politics and kept a low profile.

But in 2007, when Tymoshenko became prime minister for the second time, Medvedchuk made his second comeback and was reinstated as a member of the High Council of Justice.

Media reported then that Medvedchuk was advising Tymoshenko. She also said in 2008 that she was ready to shake hands with Medvedchuk if he could organize a natural gas agreement with Russia that was beneficial to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Kravchuk said then that the 2007 gas negotiations between Tymoshenko and Gazprom were aided by Medvedchuk.


Medvedchuk was also allegedly behind negotiations between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych to form a coalition in 2009, political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told the Kyiv Post. Tymoshenko has denied having any ties to Medvedchuk. Medvedchuk didn’t answer the request to comment about it.

Yanukovych years

Medvedchuk also partnered up with Yanukovych, who was president from 2010 to 2014. Both of them favored closer relations with Russia.

In 2012, Medvedchuk founded the Ukrainian Choice group, which supports transforming Ukraine into a federation, making Russian the second state language, and joining the Russian-led Customs Union.

Medvedchuk’s idea of “federalization” is seen as beneficial for Russia because Ukraine’s southeastern regions may fall into Russia’s orbit if they are given autonomy or sovereign status.

In January, Medvedchuk called for giving autonomy to Russian-occupied areas in the Donbas. His critics see it as a way to legitimize the Kremlin’s control over them.

Third comeback

During the EuroMaidan Revolution, which ousted Yanukovych in 2014, Medvedchuk held no public office and kept a low profile. However, according to the Kyiv Post’s sources at the Prosecutor General’s Office, during the revolution Medvedchuk and then-President Yanukovych talked on the phone several times, including on Feb. 20, 2014, when dozens of protesters were killed.


Medvedchuk kept a low profile for a while after the revolution and the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine in 2014.

But since then, Medvedchuk has come back with a vengeance under current President Petro Poroshenko – for the third time.

“Medvedchuk has excellent relations with Poroshenko,” Fesenko said. “They are using each other. The legalization of Medvedchuk has happened thanks to Poroshenko. It’s beneficial for Medvedchuk. He’s using Medvedchuk to scare everyone with the ‘Russian threat’ and at the same time he’s doing nothing against Medvedchuk.”

Poroshenko has denied being an ally or business partner of Medvedchuk.

However, Poroshenko has had ties to Medvedchuk since 1998, when he was a member of Medvedchuk’s Social Democratic Party of Ukraine. Kravchuk, who was also a leader of the party, told the Kyiv Post, however, that Medvedchuk and Poroshenko were not close to each other in the late 1990s.

As Putin’s right-hand man in Ukraine, Medvedchuk has played a major role in negotiations with Russia.

In 2014, the Security Service of Ukraine, then headed by Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, delegated Medvedchuk to the trilateral contact group in Minsk to negotiate prisoner exchanges between Russia and Ukraine, where he has stayed until 2018. Nalyvaichenko said that Medvedchuk had been appointed to the group at Poroshenko’s initiative.

Poroshenko and Medvedchuk met regularly over several months in 2018, according to an investigation by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Schemes investigative show. The Presidential Administration said Poroshenko and Medvedchuk had discussed only the issue of prisoner exchanges.

Medvedchuk is also the only person in Ukraine allowed to fly his jet directly from Kyiv to Russia, while all the direct flights are banned.

Return to politics

Under Poroshenko, Medvedchuk has also returned to public politics.

Medvedchuk joined Vadym Rabynovych’s For Life party in July and became the head of its supervisory board in November.

Also in November, Medvedchuk spearheaded a merger of the For Life party with a splinter group of the Opposition Bloc backed by tycoon Dmytro Firtash. The group includes Yuriy Boyko, who became the united For Life-Opposition Platform’s presidential candidate, and Serhiy Lyovochkin, Yanukovych’s former chief of staff.

Allies of tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, including Oleksandr Vilkul and Vadym Novynsky, along with Yevhen Murayev have not agreed to merge into this project. They backed Vilkul as a competing pro-Russian candidate.

A week before the March 31 election, Medvedchuk and Boyko traveled to Moscow for a public meeting with prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. No Ukrainian politician had a public meeting of that level with a Russian counterpart since the start of the war, accept for Poroshenko and several top officials participating in the prisoner exchange and peace negotiations.

Criminal case

In February, the Prosecutor General’s Office opened an investigation against Medvedchuk, accusing him of treason and infringing on Ukraine’s territorial integrity by calling for autonomy for the Donbas in January. Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko also said on March 27 that prosecutors would open a case against Medvedchuk for allegedly crossing the border illegally when they traveled to Russia on March 22.

Medvedchuk has not been officially charged, however.

Meanwhile, Fesenko and independent lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko believe the treason case is just a publicity stunt that will not lead to anything. It is also seen as an effort by Poroshenko to counteract speculation that he is a close partner of Medvedchuk.

Moreover, lawyers, including Roman Kuybida, say the legal prospects of the case are dubious, since it will be hard to prove that Medvedchuk’s call for autonomy for the Donbas was a criminal offense.

Unlike many pro-Russian separatists, Medvedchuk has escaped prosecution despite the fact that the statements of Medvedchuk and his Ukrainian Choice party have often echoed those of pro-Russian separatists.

Poroshenko’s critics believe that Medvedchuk’s impunity is a result of his cooperation with the president – something that both Medvedchuk and Poroshenko deny.

“The political rehabilitation of Medvedchuk, the creation of business preferences for him and his takeover of television channels became possible thanks to the protection of the incumbent president and his inner circle,” Leshchenko said on Channel 24 on March 25.

“And that’s the biggest political crime against Ukraine.”

Medvedchuk’s business empire 

For a person who formally owns next to nothing, pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk has amassed incredible wealth.

His critics say that he has accumulated his fortune thanks to government largesse and friends in high places, including President Petro Poroshenko, who has denied being a partner of Medvedchuk.

Most of the business empire associated with Medvedchuk is registered to his family members and associates.

Under President Leonid Kuchma, Wprost, a Polish newspaper, estimated Medvedchuk’s wealth at $800 million. His fortune was also assessed by Ukraine’s Focus magazine at $460 million in 2008 and at $270.5 million in 2013.

Medvedchuk did not respond to repeated requests for comment or an interview.

(Yuliana Romanyshyn)


Part of Medvedchuk’s wealth was amassed due to the takeover of the Dynamo Kyiv football club by Medvedchuk’s former business partners – Ihor and Grigory Surkis – in the early 1990s.

In the early 2000s, Medvedchuk acquired Dynamo Kyiv’s Pushcha Vodytsa resort near Kyiv.

Meanwhile, Sport Tour, which belongs to Medvedchuk’s wife Oksana Marchenko, has acquired a lease on the luxurious Bear’s Oak Forest residence near the village of Zhdenievo in Zakarpattia Oblast from Dynamo Kyiv. The residence, which spans 125 hectares of forestland, has been compared to Yanukovych’s Mezhyhyria estate.

The Bear’s Oak Forest has benefited from state largesse. Government money was used to build a pipeline, railway facilities and roads in the territory under Kuchma, and more forestland was added to it under President Viktor Yanukovych.

Another property acquired by Marchenko’s Sport Tour from Dynamo is the Simeiz residence on the coast of Russian-occupied Crimea. Here Medvedchuk and Marchenko met with Putin for a dinner in 2012.

Wild 1990s

In the 1990s, Medvedchuk became a member of a group of business people often referred to as “Kyiv Seven.” The group included Valentyn Zgursky, the Surkis brothers, Yuriy Karpenko, Bogdan Gubsky and Yuriy Lyakh.

In the 1990s, Medvedchuk and the Surkis brothers co-founded Ukrainian Credit Bank and the Slavutych group, which imported oil and gas, tobacco and alcohol and exported grain, sugar and metals. In 1994, Kuchma instructed the Cabinet to investigate their business activities, but the checks did not result in anything, and a fire destroyed documents at Medvedchuk’s office.

In 2004, several lawmakers submitted a draft resolution to create a Verkhovna Rada commission to investigate Medvedchuk’s business activities.

According to the resolution, in 1995, a Slavutich shareholder meeting authorized Medvedchuk to sign the group’s statute on behalf of Newport Management, a British Virgin Islands offshore firm, the resolution said. According to the draft resolution, in 1995 Medvedchuk received a power of attorney to use all the property of Newport Management.

Slavutich group was exempted from taxes under the spurious excuse that it was a foreign investor, the resolution said.

The group controlled 12 percent of Ukraine’s oil product market and received hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly billions of dollars in income, the lawmakers said in the resolution.

However, the resolution was never adopted by the Rada and was finally removed from the agenda in 2006.

Another firm, insurance company Ometa XXI Stolittya, was co-founded by several firms co-owned by Medvedchuk, including BIM and Dynamo Atlantic in the 1990s. Ometa was described as a Ponzi scheme that deceived tens of thousands of Ukrainians by offering them very high dividends on its stock and then suspending the payments.

Family business

Medvedchuk’s wife Oksana Marchenko owns real estate companies Terra Invest, Ukrkapital and Sport-Tur, oil and gas producer Geofizika 777, as well as agribusiness firms MBK Agrotekhnika, Landras-Agro, Galician Agricultural Company, Kolos, Oskar, Rodnichok, Tamavarowoodexport, Galichina Organic and Galagrobusiness, and television company Omega TV.

She also owns the Gavrikovskoye oil and gas field in Russia’s Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District.

“It’s a standard practice for the Kremlin,” exiled Russian opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov told the Kyiv Post. “Loyalists are given business preferences to avoid financing them from the budget and to guarantee their loyalty.”

Medvedchuk’s brother Serhiy owns Lviv-based construction companies Betonbud, Kerambud, Enei and Zakhideksperstepsbud, as well as freight shipping company Transmonolitavto, real estate company Capital Plaza and construction company Eksponent.

Pipeline business

One of the most valuable businesses allegedly associated with Medvedchuk is Prikarpatzahidtrans, a pipeline transporting oil products from Russia through Western Ukraine to Europe. Medvedchuk has denied ties to the company.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the pipeline was acquired by Russia but later a court transferred it to the Ukrainian government.

However, in 2015 a court in Rivne Oblast gave the pipeline back to Russia’s oil pipeline monopoly Transneft.

In 2015, Transneft sold Prikarpatzahidtrans to International Trading Partners, which is owned by German citizen Anatoly Shefer. Ukraine’s Anti-Monopoly Committee, which is controlled by Poroshenko allies, authorized the acquisition.

Shefer, who did not respond to a request for comment, also has had some business connections to Medvedchuk Medvedchuk. In 2013-2014, ITC Industry Trading Company SA, where Shefer is one of the directors, received a Hr 5.7 million prepayment from Ukraine’s Agrotekhnika for grain supplies to Ukraine. Agrotekhnika is co-owned by Medvedchuk’s wife Marchenko and his ally and Opposition Bloc lawmaker Taras Kozak.

Ukraine’s Anti-Monopoly Committee said on March 19 it had allowed Belarus’ Oil and Bitumen Plant to acquire Prikarpatzahidtrans. The decision was drafted by Andriy Vovk, who had previously worked at Poroshenko’s Ukrprominvest group.

Independent lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko sees the Belarusian plant as a front for Medvedchuk and believes this is an attempt by Medvedchuk to make sure that his asset is safe even if Poroshenko loses the 2019 presidential election. The Oil and Bitumen Plant will be treated as a bona fide buyer, and the new Ukrainian government may not want to spoil relations with Belarusian authorities, according to Leshchenko.

He also links the acquisition to Medvedchuk’s recent visit to Belarus and his meeting with its President Alexander Lukashenko in January.

LPG market

Another businessman who Ukrainian media have branded an alleged frontman for Medvedchuk’s business empire is Nisan Moiseyev, the owner of oil and gas traders Proton Energy and Glusco.

Radio Liberty has published video footage of Moiseyev and Medvedchuk getting out of Medvedchuk’s private jet and kissing each other on the cheek in 2016. Moiseyev admitted being acquainted with Medvedchuk but said Medvedchuk did not have anything to do with his business. Medvedchuk also denied having business ties to Moiseyev.

Leshchenko and other critics believe Moiseyev had elbowed his way into Ukraine’s liquefied petroleum market with the help of Poroshenko, the presidentially controlled Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Russian authorities. The Presidential Administration has denied helping Medvedchuk on the LPG market.

Leshchenko argued that the redistribution of the LPG market started in 2016, when the SBU’s anti-corruption unit blocked imports of LPG by 16 independent traders. The SBU said imports were blocked because it was investigating the companies for alleged tax evasion and financing Kremlin-backed separatists.

In 2017 Russia’s Federal Service for Technological and Export Control also gave Moiseyev’s Proton Energy a monopoly on Russian LPG supplies to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in 2016 Glusco Energy also acquired Rosneft’s TNK gas station network in Ukraine. The Anti-Monopoly Committee authorized the purchase.

Coal supplies

Ukrainian media name a businessman Mykyta Poz among the alleged associates of Medvedchuk. Poz was involved in a scheme that passed off coal from Russian-occupied areas in the Donbas as coal from South Africa, according to a 2016 investigation by the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper. Poz represented Arida Global Limited, a company that supplied coal to state-owned power producer Tsentrenergo, Ukrainska Pravda reported.

Poz, who did not respond to a request for comment, is the CEO of Konsul-Ukraina, a company that leased the land on which one of Medvedchuk’s dachas was built. Medvedchuk’s ally Kozak used to be the CEO of Private Canceler, a firm co-founded by Poz.

Poroshenko associates have also been accused of being involved in the coal scheme.

Fugitive lawmaker Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a suspect in an embezzlement case, claimed in 2016 that Poroshenko’s top ally and lawmaker Ihor Kononenko had been getting $20 per ton from coal supplies coming from Russian-occupied Donbas. According to Onyshchenko and the alleged correspondence with Kononenko that he has published, Kononenko influences Tsentrenergo’s management and the company’s suppliers. Poroshenko and Kononenko denied Onyshchenko’s claims.

Media empire

Medvedchuk’s allies have also been trying to build a media empire.

Under Kuchma, numerous sources cited by Ukrainian media reported that Medvedchuk, then Kuchma’s chief of staff, gave directives (temniki) to major television channels on how to cover specific events. One of the biggest television channels, Inter, was owned then by Igor Pluzhnikov, who was a deputy of Medvedchuk at the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine.

In 2018 Medvedchuk’s ally Kozak bought the NewsOne and 112 Ukraine television channels. Since then, positive coverage of both Medvedchuk and Poroshenko on these channels has increased.

According to a survey by the Journalist Ethics Commission and other groups in February, 112 Ukraine favors Poroshenko and Medvedchuk’s ally Yuriy Boyko in the presidential race.

NewsOne and 112 Ukraine were also among the several channels that ran live broadcasts of Poroshenko’s campaign kickoff event in January.

NewsOne’s general producer Vasily Golovanov also produced a fawning show praising Poroshenko’s top ally Kononenko for the pro-presidential Pryamy channel in January.

Medvedchuk appeared to have influence on the ZIK television channel. In 2018, ZIK anchor Roksana Runo said she was quitting the station because she didn’t want to comply with the management’s requests to provide positive coverage of Medvedchuk.

Another ZIK journalist, Oleksiy Bratushchak, followed suit on Feb. 28, 2019, saying he had to quit due to censorship – this time, in favor of Poroshenko. The channel denied both accusations of censorship.

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