The return of the godfather: How Putin's best friend in Ukraine is staging an improbable comeback

By On August 30, 2018

The return of the godfather: How Putin's best friend in Ukraine is staging an improbable comeback

He is known to his critics as Ukraine’s Prince of Darkness, a toxic presence. But Viktor Medvedchuk would like people to know that he’s back.

The former lawyer, a man who counts Russian president Vladimir Putin as godfather to his child, was one of the very first people to be included on US sanctions lists.

He was largely sidelined and forgotten after the Euromaidan protests. Yet the pro-Russian operator seems to be engineering an improbable comeback, leveraging in his position as the only Ukrainian capable of negotiating with the Kremlin. He was invited to become a special representative at the Minsk peace process â€" aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine - and is in charge of prisoner exchanges.

He says he will now put himself forward for election to parliament â€" on the lists of a new party, Za zhittya [for life].

Following the news, and a rare, extended TV interview, Kiev has filled with speculation about his long-term aims. Some say he is angling to become speaker in the next parliament. Others suggest he is looking to become the de facto leader of the country’s pro-Russian minority.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Mr Medvedchuk offered little clarity on his political aims. He claimed he had no intention to “jostle for positions”. But as if to underline his predilection for the shadows of politics, he added formal positions meant nothing â€" not in a government that had has “lost its entire point of being”.

World news in pictures

51 show all World news in pictures

1/51 30 August 2018

Firefighters watch on as flames leap from a giant factory fire in the inner Melbourne suburb of West Footscray - More than 120 firefighters are fighting the fire, with 30 trucks and cherry picker aerial appliances on the scene which is sending large plumes of smoke across the city. AFP/Getty

2/51 29 August 2018

People are evacuated after flooding in Swar township, Myanmar Reuters

3/51 28 August 2018

President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the Iranian Parliament in the capital Tehran. It was the first time Rouhani had been summoned by parliament in his five years in power, with MPs demanding answers on unemployment, rising prices and the collapsing value of the rial, which has lost more than half its value since April AFP/Getty

4/51 27 August 2018

A police officer walks by the front of a Chicago Pizza and GLHF Game Bar at the scene of fatal shooting at The Jacksonville Landing. A gunman opened fire at a v ideo game tournament killing multiple people and then fatally shooting himself in a rampage that wounded several others AP

5/51 26 August 2018

Migrants disembark from the Italian Coast Guard ship 'Diciotti' in the port of Catania, Italy. The vessel arrived with 177 migrants on board, but the Italian Interior Ministry denied them to disembark, calling EU member states to find a solution on how to distribute them. On 22 August, 27 unaccompanied minors were let off from the ship, assisted by Red Cross, UNHCR and Save the Children EPA

6/51 25 August 2018

Rohingya refugees during a protest march after a ttending a ceremony to remember the first anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia AFP/Getty

7/51 24 August 2018

US President Donald Trump sits with children during a tour of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio AFP/Getty

8/51 23 August 2018

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia EPA

9/51 22 August 2018

High waves hit Jeju Island, South Korea, as powerful Typhoon Soulik gradually approaches the Korean Peninsula EPA

10/51 21 August 2018

A Palestinian man throws his child in the air following morning prayers marking the first day of Eid al-Adha celebrations on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem's Old City. Eid al-Adha is the holiest of the two Muslims holidays celebrated each year, it marks the yearly Muslim pilgrimage (Hajj) to visit Mecca, the holiest place in Islam. Muslims slaughter a sacrificial animal and split the meat into three parts, one for the family, one for friends and relatives, and one for the poor and needy Reuters

11/51 20 August 2018

South Korean Lee Keum-seom, 92, meets with her North Korean son Ri Sung Chol, 71, during a separated family reunion meeting at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's southeastern coast. Dozens of elderly and frail South Koreans met their Northern relatives for the first time since the peninsula and their families were divided by war nearly seven decades ago AFP/Getty

12/51 19 August 2018

The flag of the United Nations flying at half-mast to mark the death of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, at the European headquarters in Geneva. Kofi Annan died on 18 August, aged 80 EPA

13/51 18 August 2018

Newly appointed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan inspects the guard of honor on his arrival in the Prime Minister House during a ceremony in Islamabad. Imran Khan was sworn in at a ceremony in Islamabad, ushering in a new political era as the World Cup cricket hero officially took the reins of power in the nuclear-armed country PID/AFP/Getty

14/51 17 August 2018

Muslim pilgrims walk out after the Friday prayer at the Grand mosque ahead of annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia Reuters

15/51 16 August 2018

A man wades through flooded water in Kochi, Kerala state, India. According to reports, the region is on a high alert with schools and offices been closed due to the rising water levels of Periyar river after the gates of the Idukki reservoir were opened. The area has been hit by heavy rains that caused floods and reportedly killed at least 65 people EPA

16/51 15 August 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets schoolchildren after his speech as part of India's 72nd Independence Day celebrations which marks the 71st anniversary of the end of British colonial rule, at the Red Fort in New Delhi AFP/Getty

17/51 14 August 2018

A large section of the Morandi viaduct upon which the A10 motorway runs collapsed in Genoa, Italy. Both sides of the highway fell. Around 10 vehicles are involved in the collapse, rescue sources said. The viaduct gave way amid torrential rain. It runs over shopping centres, factories, some homes, the Genoa-Milan railway line and the Polcevera river EPA

18/51 13 August 2018

Turkish President Erdogan addresses the 10th annual Ambassadors' Conference in Ankara. Global markets have reacted fearfully to Turkey's financial crash, which Turkish President Erdogan blames on a "political, underhand plot" by Donald Trump's USA. Last week the US doubled steel and aluminium tariffs against Turkey amidst diplomatic tensions over the latter's detaining of an American pastor Turkish Presidential Press Service/AFP/Getty

19/51 12 August 2018

NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. The probe will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. NASA via Getty

20/51 11 August 2018

An activist confronts Virginia State Troopers in riot gear during a rally on the campus of The University of Virginia one-year after the violent white nationalist rally that left one person dead and dozens injured in Charlottesville, Virginia AFP/Getty

21/51 10 August 2018

A man holds his son before Friday prayers at an evacuation centre in Sambik Bangkol village, in northern Lombok on West Nusa Tenggara province AFP/Getty

22/51 9 August 2018

A rescuers stands next to a damaged tent in a flo oded camping as storms and heavy rains sweep across France on August 9, 2018 in Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, southern France. - The bad weather caused large power cuts and a man who was working in a summer camp went missing according to the gendarmerie AFP/Getty

23/51 8 August 2018

A Palestinian girl smiles as she waits to receive aids at a United Nations food distribution centre in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza AFP/Getty

24/51 7 August 2018

An Israeli soldier rides an armoured vehicle during an army drill after the visit of Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the Israeli-occupied Golan H eights, Israel Reuters

25/51 6 August 2018

Usable items are salvaged from a home destroyed in an earthquake in North Lombok, Indonesia. The powerful earthquake struck the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, killing a number of people and shaking neighboring Bali, as authorities on Monday said thousands of houses were damaged and the death toll could climb AP

26/51 5 August 2018

Accident investigators and rescue personnel work at the wreckage of a Junkers JU52 aircraft in Flims, after it crashed into Piz Segnas, a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) peak in eastern Switzerland. Twenty people were confirmed dead after the vintage World War II aircraft crashed into a Swiss mountainside, police reports said. The Junker JU52 HB-HOT aircraft, built in Germany in 1939 and now a collectors item, belongs to JU-Air, a company with links to the Swiss air force, the ATS news agency reported AFP/Getty

27/51 4 August 2018

Members of different security forces stand guard and take evidence after an explosion targeted President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela. The Venezuelan Information Minister, Jorge Rodriguez, confirmed that President Nicolas Maduro was the victim of an attack with 'drone-type flying devices that contained an explosive charge', and that he escaped unharmed from the incident, which occurred during a military ceremony in Caracas EPA

28/51 3 August 2018

People in Mbare celebrate after officials announced the re-election of President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in Harare, Zimbabwe. The election was the first since Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup last year, and featured a close race between Mnangagwa and opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC Alliance). Deadly clashes broke out earlier in the week following the release of parliamentary election results, amid allegations of fraud by Chamisa and MDC supporters Getty

29/51 2 August 2018

A supporter of the ruling ZANU-PF walks past a b urnt vehicle at the party's offices a day after the clashes between security forces and opposition protesters in Harare, Zimbabwe Reuters

30/51 1 August 2018

A ceremony takes place in a hangar, to mark the return of 55 sets of remains of American troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. The ceremony was held five days after a US airplane transported the remains to South Korea from North Korea in a move expected to facilitate ongoing efforts to promote peace on the peninsula EPA

31/51 31 July 2018

Veronika Nikulshina, one of four members of Russia's P ussy Riot protest group who were jailed for 15 days for staging a pitch invasion during the football World Cup final and were detained again after their release on July 30, is escorted by a police officer before a court hearing in Moscow Reuters

32/51 30 July 2018

A relative of a passenger of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 reads the safety report that has concluded that the planes controls were deliberately manipulated and that illegal interference by a third party cannot be ruled out. Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on 8 March 2014 Reuters

33/51 29 July 2018

Palestinian activist and campaigner Ahed Tamimi kisses the tombstone of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at his mausoleum in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, after she was released from prison following an eight-month sentence for slapping two Israeli soldiers AFP/Getty

34/51 28 July 2018

Zimbabwe's incumbent President and candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa arrives for his closing presidential campaign rally in Harare, two days ahead of the elections AFP/Getty

35/51 27 July 2018

A house burns during the Carr fire in Redding, California. One firefighter has died and at least two ot hers have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region Getty

36/51 26 July 2018

Supporters of Pakistan's cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, celebrate in Karachi, a day after a general election. Imran Khan claimed victory in the country's tense general election marred by allegations of "blatant" rigging by rival parties. A visibly tired Khan cut a conciliatory tone in a wide-ranging address to the nation following the controversial contest AFP/Getty

37/51 25 July 2018

A man who was injured in a suspe cted suicide bomb attack outside a polling station, receives medical treatment at a hospital in Quetta. At least 25 people were killed and 30 injured in the incident. Polling stations in Pakistan opened for the general election for around 105 million constituents. Voters will have to choose from 11,000 candidates to elect 272 members of the Parliament for the next term. These elections are the second in Pakistan's history in which a government was able to complete its term to make way for another government after being ruled by military dictators for half of the 71 years of its existence since its founding in 1947 EPA

38/51 24 July 2018

A woman reacts as she tries to find her dog, following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece. At least 60 people are thought to have been killed Reuters

39/51 23 July 2018

A house is threatened by a huge blaze during a wildfire in Kineta, near Athens. More than 300 firefighters, five aircraft and two helicopters were mobilised to tackle the "extremely difficult" situation due to strong gusts of wind, Athens fire chief Achille Tzouvaras said AFP/Getty

40/51 22 July 2018

Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure Getty

41/51 21 July 2018

A Syrian child looks through the window of a bus as displaced people from the Quneitra province wait at the Morek crossing point to be transfered in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, northwestern Syria. The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control. Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighbouring buffer zone with the Israeli-occupied Golan, a war monitor and a rebel AFP/Getty

42/51 20 July 2018

Men push a car past a flooded street in Ahmadabad, India. Hundreds of people have been rescued from flood affected areas in the p ast week as incessant rains continue to lash Gujarat state AP

43/51 19 July 2018

Arab lawmakers stand up in protest during a Knesset session in Jerusalem. Israel's parliament approved a controversial piece of legislation that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people but which critics warn sidelines minorities AP

44/51 18 July 2018

The 12 boys and their soccer coach who were rescued from a flooded cave arrive for a news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand Reuters

45/51 17 July 2018

President Barack Obama delivers the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture, marking the centenary of the anti-apartheid leader's birth, in Johannesburg, South Africa Reuters

46/51 16 July 2018

French supporters celebrate on the Champs Elysees their team's victory after the World Cup 2018 final between France and Croatia EPA

47/51 15 July 2018

Hugo Lloris lifts the trophy after France beat Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final in the Luzhniki Stadium in Russia AP

48/51 14 July 2018

Germany's Angelique Kerber beat seven-time champion US player Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final. Kerber won her first Wimbledon title PA

49/51 13 July 2018

Firefighters using fire helicopters fighting wildfires in Sordal in Setesdalen in the southern part of Norway. The fires are thought to be caused by lightning in the very dry landscape EPA

50/51 12 July 2018

The Syrian national flag rises in the midst of damaged buildings in Daraa-al-Balad an opposition-held part of the southern city of Daraa. Syria's army entered rebel-held parts of Daraa city, state media said, raising the national flag in the cradle of the uprising that sparked the country's seven-year war, following a deal for rebels to hand over their heavy weapons in Daraa al-Balad and other opposition-held parts of the city AFP

51/51

1/51 30 August 2018

Firefighters watch on as flames leap from a giant factory fire in the inner Melbourne suburb of West Footscray - More than 120 firefighters are fighting the fire, with 30 trucks and cherry picker aerial appliances on the scene which is sending large plumes of smoke across the city. AFP/Getty

2/51 29 August 2018

People are evacuated after flooding in Swar township, Myanmar Reuters

3/51 28 August 2018

President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the Iranian Parliament in the capital Tehran. It was the first time Rouhani had been summoned by parliament in his five years in power, with MPs demanding answers on unemployment, rising prices and the collapsing value of the rial, which has lost more than half its value since April AFP/Getty

4/51 27 August 2018

A police officer walks by the front of a Chicago Pizza and GLHF Game Bar at the scene of fatal shooting at The Jacksonville Landing. A gunman opened fire at a video game tournament killing multiple people and then fatally shooting himself in a rampage that wounded several others AP

5/51 26 August 2018

Migrants disembark from the Italian Coast Guard ship 'Diciotti' in the port of Catania, Italy. The vessel arrived with 177 migrants on board, but the Italian Interior Ministry denied them to disembark, calling EU member states to find a solution on how to distribute them. On 22 August, 27 unaccompanied minors were let off from the ship, assisted by Red Cross, UNHCR and Save the Children EP A

6/51 25 August 2018

Rohingya refugees during a protest march after attending a ceremony to remember the first anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia AFP/Getty

7/51 24 August 2018

US President Donald Trump sits with children during a tour of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio AFP/Getty

8/51 23 August 2018

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia EPA

9/51 22 August 2018

High waves hit Jeju Island, South Korea, as powerful Typhoon Soulik gradually approaches the Korean Peninsula EPA

10/51 21 August 2018

A Palestinian man throws his child in the air following morning prayers marking the first day of Eid al-Adha celebrations on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem's Old City. Eid al-Adha is the holiest of the two Muslims holidays celebrated each year, it marks the yearly Muslim pilgrimage (Hajj) to visit Mecca, th e holiest place in Islam. Muslims slaughter a sacrificial animal and split the meat into three parts, one for the family, one for friends and relatives, and one for the poor and needy Reuters

11/51 20 August 2018

South Korean Lee Keum-seom, 92, meets with her North Korean son Ri Sung Chol, 71, during a separated family reunion meeting at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's southeastern coast. Dozens of elderly and frail South Koreans met their Northern relatives for the first time since the peninsula and their families were divided by war nearly seven decades ago AFP/Getty

12/51 19 August 2018

The f lag of the United Nations flying at half-mast to mark the death of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, at the European headquarters in Geneva. Kofi Annan died on 18 August, aged 80 EPA

13/51 18 August 2018

Newly appointed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan inspects the guard of honor on his arrival in the Prime Minister House during a ceremony in Islamabad. Imran Khan was sworn in at a ceremony in Islamabad, ushering in a new political era as the World Cup cricket hero officially took the reins of power in the nuclear-armed country PID/AFP/Getty

14/51 17 August 2018

Muslim pilgrims walk out after the Friday prayer at the Grand mosque ahead of annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia Reuters

15/51 16 August 2018

A man wades through flooded water in Kochi, Kerala state, India. According to reports, the region is on a high alert with schools and offices been closed due to the rising water levels of Periyar river after the gates of the Idukki reservoir were opened. The area has been hit by heavy rains that caused floods and reportedly killed at least 65 people EPA

16/51 15 August 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets schoolchildren after his speech as part of India� 39;s 72nd Independence Day celebrations which marks the 71st anniversary of the end of British colonial rule, at the Red Fort in New Delhi AFP/Getty

17/51 14 August 2018

A large section of the Morandi viaduct upon which the A10 motorway runs collapsed in Genoa, Italy. Both sides of the highway fell. Around 10 vehicles are involved in the collapse, rescue sources said. The viaduct gave way amid torrential rain. It runs over shopping centres, factories, some homes, the Genoa-Milan railway line and the Polcevera river EPA

18/51 13 August 2018

Turkish President Erdogan addresses the 10th annual Ambassadors' Conference in Ankara. Global markets have reacted fearfully to Turkey's financial crash, which Turkish President Erdogan blames on a "political, underhand plot" by Donald Trump's USA. Last week the US doubled steel and aluminium tariffs against Turkey amidst diplomatic tensions over the latter's detaining of an American pastor Turkish Presidential Press Service/AFP/Getty

19/51 12 August 2018

NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona. The probe will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. NASA via Getty

20/51 11 August 2018

An activist confronts Virginia State Troopers in riot gear during a rally on the campus of The University of Virginia one-year after the violent white nationalist rally that left one person dead and dozens injured in Charlottesville, Virginia AFP/Getty

21/51 10 August 2018

A man holds his son before Friday prayers at an evacuation centre in Sambik Bangkol village, in northern Lombok on West Nusa Tenggara province AFP/Getty

22/51 9 August 2018

A rescuers stands next to a damaged tent in a flooded camping as storms and heavy rains sweep across France on August 9, 2018 in Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, southern France. - The bad weather caused large power cuts and a man who was working in a summer camp went missing according to the gendarmerie AFP/Getty

23/51 8 August 2018

A Palestinian girl smiles as she waits to receive aids at a United Nations food distribution centre in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza AFP/Getty

24/51 7 August 2018

An Israeli soldier rides an armoured vehicle during an army drill after the visit of Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel Reuters

25/51 6 August 2018

Usable items are salvaged from a home destroyed in an earthquake in North Lombok, Indonesia. The powerful earthquake struck the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, killing a number of people and shaking neighboring Bali, as authorities on Monday said thousands of houses were damaged and the death toll could climb AP

26/51 5 August 2018

Accident investigators and rescue personnel work at the wreckage of a Junkers JU52 aircraft in Flims, after it crashed into Piz Segnas, a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) peak in eastern Switzerland. Twenty people were confirmed dead after the vintage World War II aircraft crashed into a Swiss mountainside, police reports said. The Junker JU52 HB-HOT aircraft, built in Germany in 1939 and now a collectors item, belongs to JU-Air, a company with links to the Swiss air force, the ATS news agency reported AFP/Getty

27/51 4 August 2018

Members of different security forces stand guard and take evidence after an explosion targeted President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela. The Venezuelan Information Minister, Jorge Rodriguez, confirmed that President Nicolas Maduro was the victim of an attack with 'drone-type flying devices that c ontained an explosive charge', and that he escaped unharmed from the incident, which occurred during a military ceremony in Caracas EPA

28/51 3 August 2018

People in Mbare celebrate after officials announced the re-election of President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in Harare, Zimbabwe. The election was the first since Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup last year, and featured a close race between Mnangagwa and opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC Alliance). Deadly clashes broke out earlier in the week following the release of parliamentary election results, amid allegations of fraud by Chamisa and MDC supporters Gett y

29/51 2 August 2018

A supporter of the ruling ZANU-PF walks past a burnt vehicle at the party's offices a day after the clashes between security forces and opposition protesters in Harare, Zimbabwe Reuters

30/51 1 August 2018

A ceremony takes place in a hangar, to mark the return of 55 sets of remains of American troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. The ceremony was held five days after a US airplane transported the remains to South Korea from North Korea in a move expected to facilitate ongoing efforts to promote peace on the peninsula EPA

31/51 31 July 2018

Veronika Nikulshina, one of four members of Russia's Pussy Riot protest group who were jailed for 15 days for staging a pitch invasion during the football World Cup final and were detained again after their release on July 30, is escorted by a police officer before a court hearing in Moscow Reuters

32/51 30 July 2018

A relative of a passenger of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 reads the safety report that has concluded that the planes controls were deliberately manipulated and that illegal interference by a third party cannot be ruled out. Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on 8 March 2014 Reuters

33/51 29 July 2018

Palestinian activist and campaigner Ahed Tamimi kisses the tombstone of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at his mausoleum in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, after she was released from prison following an eight-month sentence for slapping two Israeli soldiers AFP/Getty

34/51 28 July 2018

Zimbabwe's incumbent President and candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa arrives for his closing presidential campaign rally in Harare, two days ahead of the elections AFP/Getty

35/51 27 July 2018

A house burns during the Carr fire in Redding, California. One firefighter has died and at least two others have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region Getty

36/51 26 July 2018

Supporters of Pakistan's cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, celebrate in Karachi, a day after a general election. Imran Khan claimed victory in the country's tense general election marred by allegations of "blatant" rigging by rival parties. A visibly tired Khan cut a conciliatory tone in a wide-ranging address to the nation following the controversial contest AFP/Getty

37/51 25 July 2018

A man who was injured in a suspected suicide bomb attack outside a polling station, receives medical treatment at a hospital in Quetta. At least 25 people were killed and 30 injured in the incident. Polling stations in Pakistan opened for the general election for around 105 million constituents. Voters will have to choose from 11,000 candidates to elect 272 members of the Parliament for the next term. These elections are the second in Pakistan's history in which a government was able to complete its term to make way for another government after being ruled by military dictators for half of the 71 years of its existence since its founding in 1947 EPA

38/51 24 July 2018

A woman reacts as she tries to find her dog, following a wildfire at the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece. At least 60 people are thought to have been killed Reuters

39/51 23 July 2018

A house is threatened by a huge blaze during a wildfire in Kineta, near Athens. More than 300 firefighters, five aircraft and two helicopters were mobilised to tackle the "extremely difficult" situation due to strong gusts of wind, Athens fire chief Achille Tzouvaras said AFP/Getty

40/51 22 July 2018

Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the bo rder in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure Getty

41/51 21 July 2018

A Syrian child looks through the window of a bus as displaced people from the Quneitra province wait at the Morek crossing point to be transfered in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, northwestern Syria. The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control. Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighbouring buffer zone with the Israeli-occupied Golan, a war monitor and a rebel AFP/Getty

42/51 20 July 2018

Men push a car past a flooded street in Ahmadabad, India. Hundreds of people have been rescued from flood affected areas in the past week as incessant rains continue to lash Gujarat state AP

43/51 19 July 2018

Arab lawmakers stand up in protest during a Knesset session in Jerusalem. Israel's parliament approved a controversial piece of legislation that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people but which critics warn sidelines minorities AP

44/51 18 July 2018

The 12 boys and their soccer coach who were rescued from a flooded cave arrive for a news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand Reuters

45/51 17 July 2018

President Barack Obama delivers the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture, marking the centenary of the anti-apartheid leader's birth, in Johannesburg, South Africa Reuters

46/51 16 July 2018

French supporters celebrate on the Champs Elysees their team's victory after the World Cup 2018 final between France and Croatia EPA

47/51 15 July 2018< /h2> Hugo Lloris lifts the trophy after France beat Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final in the Luzhniki Stadium in Russia AP

48/51 14 July 2018

Germany's Angelique Kerber beat seven-time champion US player Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final. Kerber won her first Wimbledon title PA

49/51 13 July 2018

Firefighters using fire helicopters fighting wildfires in Sordal in Setesdalen in the southern part of Norway. The fires are thought to be caused by lightning in the very dry landscape EPA

50/51 12 July 2018

The Syrian national flag rises in the midst of damaged buildings in Daraa-al-Balad an opposition-held part of the southern city of Daraa. Syria's army entered rebel-held parts of Daraa city, state media said, raising the national flag in the cradle of the uprising that sparked the country's seven-year war, following a deal for rebels to hand over their heavy weapons in Daraa al-Balad and other opposition-held parts of the city AFP

51/51

“The government has no influence on life in the country. It has no monopoly of force,” he said.

With presidential elections due next March, and parliamentary elections the following autumn, Ukraine is visibly stepping up a political gear. Campaign posters for the main presidential candidates have already appeared all across the capital, Kiev.

President Petro Poroshenko is basing his appeal on a traditionalist and militaristic call â€" “army, language and faith” read his posters. Yulia Tymoshenko, the phoenix of Ukrainian politics, is offering her voters the promise of a “new social pact”. Ms Tymoshenko is the undoubted favourite in the campaign, having led major polls for over a year. But a third candidate such as former minister of defence Anatoliy Hrytsenko and the chart-topping rockstar, but yet-to-declare Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, may yet have a chance.

Putin warns of ‘consequences’ if Nato develops closer ties with Georgia and Ukraine

Mr Medvedchuk offered some endorsement for the “focused” and “well-prepared” Yulia Tymoshenko, who would fight “with every fibre” for the prize. In a run-off between Mr Hrystenko and Ms Tymoshenko, for example, it was “clear” the electorate should choose Ms Tymoshenko.

But he insisted there was no political relationship with Yulia: “There is no necessity for this. And we have different political positions.”

Some have suggested that Ms Tymoshenko may take a more flexible approach to relations in Moscow. But Mr Medvedchuk, Ukraine’s special representative at the Minsk negotiations, dismissed such a prospect.

“I don’t think she has any better chances than Poroshenko in the Donbass,” he said referring to the conflict. “I don’t see that Tymoshenko has the political will to go after peace any more than Poroshenko.”

Mr Medvedchuk’s own views on the resolution of the conflict are reliably pro-Moscow and have broadly evolved in step with the Kremlin.

Long associated with a campaign to federalise Ukraine, Mr Medvedchuk advocates granting comprehensive autonomy to the separatist statelets in eastern Ukraine. The two were separate processes, he said. On Donbas s, he would “soon” be presenting a new proposal for the return of the regions to Ukraine. This would propose self-government on the terms formerly granted to Crimea.

Mr Medvedchuk said the offer would not include a veto on major foreign relations questions such as Nato membership. He denied his proposals would dilute sovereignty. “The threat for sovereignty comes from Washington managing Ukraine from afar and by the movement towards European and Nao integration,” he said.

Mr Medvedchuk referred to the threat of Nato membership several times â€" despite also accepting it was “not a realistic prospect.”

It was not the only talking point that might have been penned by the Kremlin.

The United States was interfering in the affairs of “brotherly” nations, he said. Putin wanted peace in Donbass. Putin would do everything to protect eastern Ukrainians from repressions from Ukraine’s “party of war”.

Yes, the OSCE videos released earlier this month seemed to show Russia violating state borders and providing weapons to separatist forces. But the US, Nato and the EU were doing “the same” by providing weapons to Ukraine.

“So one side is doing it publicly and the other side isn’t? What’s the question? What should I comment on?”

Mr Medvedchuk said he “often† discussed Ukraine with his compadre, Vladimir Putin. How often was for them to know. “More than once a year,” he said, before winking. He would wink several times in the course of the interview.

His friendship with Vladimir Putin began in 2003. They were introduced by Alexander Voloshin, who was his opposite number as head of the Kremlin administration. The two soon realised out they had close worldviews â€" “how else could we keep our relationship going?” â€" but they diverged on one key question.

“Putin thinks we are one nation, but I think it’s not one nation, but two Slavic nations, with intertwined histories, religion. I tell him this all the time. I don’t think it’s one nation. You simply can’t say this.”

Writing in All the Kremlin’s Men, the well-connected Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar claimed that Vladimir Putin believed that no question involving Ukraine could be solved without Viktor Medvedchuk. This is the major reservoir for the political operator’s newfound power.

But Mr Medvedchuk insists it would be a “sin” for him not to use his close ties with the Russian president.

“I want people to be home with their families,” he said. “When people say I helped release 481 people, that is just from the Ukrainian side, overall the numbers are 800-900. I know I’m the only one who can do it. Others tried and failed.”

Mr Medvedchuk says he is currently negotiating hard for the release of Oleh Sentsov, now entering his 110th day on hunger strike. He insists the Cr imean director, who is taking nutritional support that may sustain him for several weeks, will not be allowed to die in prison.

“Do you really think that Russia will allow something terrible to happen? There is such a thing as force-feeding. This is allowed under the rules of detention.”

Several issues of “form” and “substance” stand in the way of his release, says Mr Medvedchuk. Ukraine was responsible for creating a number of problems for itself, he said, by creating political pressure an d issuing ultimatums. “You also have to think about the process of releasing him. You either show he is innocent with a verdict in the European court. Or you get a pardon. You need to make a personal application to Putin for the matter to be looked at.”

This is not the first time that Mr Medvedchuk has been closely associated with the fate of a prisoner on hunger strike. Many have been quick to draw parallels with a case from 1980 when Mr Medvedchuk, then a 25-year-old lawyer, was assigned by the state to defend dissident Vasyl Stus from charges of anti-Soviet propaganda.

The dissident died in prison following a hunger strike in 1985. He was later pardoned and became a national hero.

According to friends, Mr Stus protested against Mr Medvedchuk’s appointment and said that he sensed his lawyer was working for the other side. In official protocols of the court sessions, Mr Medvedchuk is recorded as agreeing with the verdict.

When asked whether the case brought back memories, the smiles and winks disappear.

“I see nothing in common, no [common] fate between Stus and Sentsov,” he said. He was but a “young lawyer” at the time, sent to take on a case others were uncomfortable with, and he could not have operated differently: “Stus denounced the Soviet government, and didn’t consider it to be legitimate. Everyone decides their own fate. Stus admitted he agitated against the Soviet government. He was found guilty by the laws of the time. When the laws changed, the case was dropped. Unfortunately, he died.”

Nationalist-leaning parliamentarians and activist groups have begun a campaign demanding Ukraine’s general prosecutor reopen an investigation into the affair. They have announced a protest rally for 4 September to this end. Meeting in “Pizza Veterano” a new restaurant opened by veterans of the conflict, activists of the “Stop Revanche” movement told The Independent that they were “convinced” Mr Medvedchuk was working to undermine the results of the revolution.

“The evidence was enough to put him on sanctions lists,” one reasoned.

Mr Medvedchuk said he would not be paying any attention to their campaign. “What do they expect me to do?” he said. “To quit? Never.”

Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine

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