Victor Medvedchuk and MEPs: how “useful idiots” become useless
If we look at the Russian aggression against Ukraine in retrospect, the year of 2019 was marked by the struggle for the “Ukrainian inheritance” between Vladislav Surkov and Dmitry Kozak. Another confidant of Vladimir Putin, Viktor Medvedchuk, is also in search of his place in the sun.
Philosopher and realist fighting over Ukraine
Former Russian GRU military intelligence officer Vladislav Surkov represented the so-called “party of hawks”, which Russia’s top Telegram channels branded as a pro-Poroshenko project. There were reasons to claim so since at times, Surkov and Poroshenko’s interests could line up. After all, “Away from Moscow” Poroshenko’s political platform, proposed to his voters, remained him the Kremlin’s Enemy №1, that suited Surkov’s strategy.
None of Surkov’s political projects has yielded any effective results. There’s an exception though, which can be counted under certain conditions. Perhaps, it’s the transformation of Russia’s Yedinstvo [Unity] Party into the Yedinaya Rossiya [United Russia], as well as the ascent of the Rodina [Motherland] Party, led by Dmitry Rogozin. But even in these two projects, he didn’t play a key role.
Surkov was valued over his ability to build “castles in the air”. In fact, he was more of a shrink for a dictator gone mad than an actual government manager. The youth project Nashi, supposedly, was aimed at proving to Putin that the young generation that hadn’t seen another leader in their lifetime accepted Russia’s quasi-tsarism just fine.
Once the Nashi project died out after its successfully siphoned budget dried up, Surkov came up with the “sovereign democracy” concept, which supposedly explained why Russia needed that quasi-tsarism. Then he came up with the “deep nation“, which he alleged was the main actor supporting quasi-tsarism. When everyone seemed to be fed up with the “deep nation”, he penned a piece titled “Putinism as a political lifehack“.
It’s rather scary to realize that not only did Putin pay his man for this nonsense, he also allowed him to steer processes that affected millions of human lives. However, one thing remains absolutely clear — no one would benefit more than Surkov off of the continued simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine, where people would keep getting killed occasionally. It was in precisely in this scenario where he would’ve retain weight, while his American counterpart Kurt Volker would’ve been forced to chase him around the world, in view of sanctions banning Surkov from crossing quite many borders.
Russian Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak (also raised by the GRU) led the conditional “party of doves”, for whom putting the Donbas conflict to a halt and the subsequent return of the occupied territories to Ukraine (all but Crimea, of course) was quite important. Indeed, in this case, as European partners signaled, sanctions would be gradually lifted off of Russia.
Kozak had suffered a lot from the Kremlin’s foreign policy vector as a person responsible for the fuel and energy sector, for Crimea, Transnistria and Donbass, he was affected by sanctions and the West’s general attitude towards Russia. The main problems were:
– The impossibility of developing gas field projects by Novatek, a large share of which is owned by France’s Total;
– Stagnation in the development of the Black Sea oil and gas-bearing shelf;
– Development of deposits in the Arctic, requiring modern technology and tools from the West; and
– Protection of the interests of Gazprom and other energy firms in the West, etc.
In the end, Kozak has eventually defeated Surkov, effectively taking up his position. The pitiful interview by Aslanbek Andarbekovich Dudaev (Surkov’s real name) to “Aktualniye Kommentarii” — the media he controls — was seen as an extremely hysterical attempt to save face in a bad game. Kozak can enjoy the moment and celebrate his win. Also, his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Yermak, also sealed a bureaucratic victory and, rising a notch, turned from a presidential aide into the head of Zelensky’s Office.
The third one in reserve
Another Putin’s minion in Ukraine, Viktor Medvedchuk, tried to take his place in the sun, when the two yokozunas had their battle, mainly under the Kremlin’s carpets and in anonymous Telegram channels (Nezygar rooted for Surkov, while Alexey Venediktov, chief editor of Echo of Moscow, played on Kozak’s side),
Having failed negotiations with Yuriy Boyko and Rinat Akhmetov (the two main beneficiaries of the Opposition Bloc faction in the previous Ukrainian Parliament), Medvedchuk stroke a deal with the successful Ukrainian political businessman Vadym Rabinovych, who was keen on monetizing his political predilections. After the two of them kicked out the “third participant in their concession”, Yevgeny Muraev, from the parliamentary race, Viktor Medvedchuk became head of the political council of the Opposition Platform For Life (OPFL) Party.
Viktor Medvedchuk had the first ever more or less successful election result throughout his entire political career. In 2008, he failed with his political bloc “Ne Tak”, and in 2013 — with the “Ukrainian Choice” project. From the very beginning of 2019, he had tried his best to show that, against the backdrop of the Surkov-Kozak clash, he is balling on his own, and that it’s he, an ethnic Ukrainian, who has all the rights to taking up the post of “Governor-General” of Ukraine for Putin.
His ambitions were supported by the motivation to work off the Kremlin investments in him. Medvedchuk’s wife, Oksana Marchenko, co-owns the Gavrikovskoye oil field in Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area of the Russian Federation. One of the ideas, which have allegedly received Putin’s blessing, was a “parliamentary dimension of the Normandy format”. Medvedchuk claims that negotiations in the Normandy format aren’t bringing the desired result because of Zelensky’s alleged unwillingness to support certain legislative initiatives that he and his party are ready to submit to Ukraine’s Parliament.
Medvedchuk had developed the strategy before the newly elected Ukrainian parliament started its work. On the very first session day, he and his fellow party members submitted to the Verkhovna Rada Secretariat a number of documents, to which no one paid any attention.
Then, on December 20, 2019, Viktor Medvedchuk met with Vladimir Putin and Russian Finance Minister Siluanov. Putin allegedly supported Medvedchuk’s initiative toward an inter-parliamentary dialogue, aimed at “implementing the Minsk agreements” (naturally, in the way the Russian president sees fit).
On December 24, 2019, Medvedchuk met with Head of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Volodin, who received from Putin instructions to back Medvedchuk’s initiative. The meeting received wide coverage in Russian media and on Medvedchuk-controlled TV channels in Ukraine. In fact, it was precisely on that day that the founding was legalized of an inter-parliamentary association “Inter-Parliamentary Dialogue for Peace: Ukraine-Russia-Germany-France”, which officially included no one but Viktor Medvedchuk, who appointed himself head of the Association’s Ukrainian part. The relevant documents had been submitted in the Rada Secretariat back in November 2019.
Thus, Medvedchuk finally settled in a niche where he would feel comfortable spreading the word about Vladimir Putin’s greatness, working off all those assets his wife has been allowed to own in Russia.
Not all MEPs are equally useful
Medvedchuk had begun his “crusade for peace” long before he officially became an MP. Even without the legislator’s status, he managed to whisper several members of the European Parliament into playing along his lines and attending his events. There is every reason to believe that the actual whisperers beyond this effort were Russian intelligence agencies, which exploit their clandestine and other networks in Europe to set up conferences and other events of a marginal nature, only to massively cover them in Russian media, trying to spin their messages to wider audiences.
On July 17, 2019, Medvedchuk’s TV channels NewsOne and 112 Ukraine broadcast a live roundtable in Brussels, where Medvedchuk presented a “peace plan” to a group of MEPs.
Among them was Nicolas Bay (France) and Nathan Gill (UK — that’s when Britain was still part of the European Union). An easy guess — both MEPs represented political forces supporting Putin’s policies. Gill’s participation was especiall cynical against the background of GRU’s atrocious attempt on ex-spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain’s Salisbury.
Meanwhile, Nicolas Bay is Marine Le Pen’s fellow party member in her National Front Party. Incidentally, she recently received a notification from Russia for a full payoff of the money invested in her party through the First Russian-Czech Bank.
Bay is a secretary general of this political force. He was one of the “frontmen” of the Yalta International Economic Forum, held in the occupied Crimea in April 2016. There, he stated that “it is necessary to recognize that the inhabitants of Crimea made their choice and returned to Russia. Their choice must be respected.” In addition, he promoted the “lifting of sanctions.”
On June 13, 2019, Nicolas Bay also became deputy head of the European Parliament Group called Identity and Democracy, which unites all “Putin’s friends” whom the Russian leader had “bought up” at different stages (Lega Nord, National Front, AfD (Alternative for Germany), etc.). The Group consists of 73 MEPs.
It would be interesting to learn how passionately Nicolas Bay is supporting the initiative voiced by Putin’s man Medvedchuk, now that the Russians have claimed their money back… Apparently, the “high level” of relations with French President Emmanuel Macron makes Le Pen’s marginal efforts simply a waste of Russian money.
Nathan Gill was initially with the UKIP party before joining Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in 2019. He is convinced that migration flows must be restricted. In October 2018, Gill came to Ukraine to meet with a member of the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine, Serhiy Kostynskiy, to tell him that NewsOne and the 112 Ukraine TV channels (both owned by Medvedchuk) must not be punished for violating Ukrainian legislation because “freedom of speech is paramount.”
Nathan is a frequent commentator for Russia’s RT. He was also targeted in a probe into an alleged misuse of European funds allocated to MEPs, although no evidence was found to back accusations. No surprise here, as before he even joined European Parliament, his company accumulated a GDP 166,000 debt and called bankruptcy.
Among other things, Eurosceptic Gill, who has joined the EP delegation for cooperation with Ukraine, believes that climate change is bollocks, just as wind-generated energy. He has been steadily voting against renewables. There’s even an impression that the guy is part of the OPFL or Russian parliament rather than an actual MEP.
“Paris is well worth a mass”
On the video of this meeting, held in the Luxembourg Palace, Shufrych, Rabinovych and Goulet are seen holding some pamphlet, which, apparently, is that very secret “peace plan” for Ukraine that only Medvedchuk’s associates have.
Shufrych and Rabinovych are convincing Natalie Goulet to support them in promoting the plan in Europe. But, as seen from footage, she doesn’t show much enthusiasm. Still, some Ukrainian media immediately trumpeted that it was almost Emmanuel Macron himself who was ready to support Medvedchuk’s plan.
It is also worth mentioning that this is the same Natalie Goulet, who in March 2016 spoke on France Inter radio station, claiming she was aware of an “ISIS training camp in Ukraine“, and that she’d allegedly learned about it from the then-Security Service chief Vasyl Hrytsak.
Naturally, Hrytsak immediately refuted the statement, while the Ukrainian Embassy in Paris was forced to issue a demarche and request that the official refrain from such statements. The narrative that Ukraine is in any way connected with ISIS is one of the favorite quirks of Russian propagandists. We can’t know though whether Ms. Goulet voiced it deliberately, or whether she was misled by her sources.
And yet, six months after that meeting, in January 2020, Viktor Medvedchuk and his loyal aide and party member Oleg Voloshin set up another meeting in the French Senate. By the way, Mr Voloshin’s name is voiced in several investigations by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office as part of the U.S. election meddling case.
In pompous preparations for the Paris meeting, more than 40 invitations were sent to senators and representatives of the National Assembly (parliament’s lower house). However, when the invitees figured out who the organizer was and learned about his reputation in Europe, many refrained from attending this freak show.
However, there were also those who chose to come. Among them was RFI journalist in Paris and Novaya Gazeta observer Yuri Safronov, who was covering the event. Safronov’s article insulted Medvedchuk so much that OPFL members even wrote a complaint to the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which, of course, was partially published.
According to Safronov, the organizer of the event, Oleg Voloshin, refused to provide the journalist with a list of invitees, redirecting him to Guillaume Pradoura, an assistant to an MEP with Germany’s far-right AfD, who provided 16 names of participants in the event.
Safronov emphasizes that “the accreditation for the meeting in the Senate was dealt with by Guillaume de Thieulloy, an ultra-Catholic monarchist, publisher of memoirs by Jean-Marie Le Pen” (former leader of the National Front Party, whom his own daughter eventually kicked out of politics).
Besides those mentioned next people were invited:
- Sebastian Meurant, Senator with the Republican Party (a “supporter of dialogue” with Le Pen’s party (that’s according to Safronov);
- Henri Malosse, Chairman of the European Socio-Economic Committee;
- Yves Pozzo di Borgo, Ex-Senator (who is included in the lists of the infamous “Peacemaker” website in Ukraine for violating border crossing rules to visit the occupied Crimea);
- René Danesi, Senator for Haut-Rhin, Alsace, and Vice President of the Senate’s France-Russia Friendship Group (she is also listed by “Peacemaker” for her illegal visit to Crimea);
- Gérard Longuet, Chairman of the Senate’s Friendship Group France-Russia;
- Natalia Pouzyreff, National Assembly Deputy;
- Joël Guerriau, Senator with the Republican Party;
- Jacques Maire, National Assembly Deputy (invited, but ignored the meeting);
- Claudine Kauffmann, Senator;
- Éric Woerth, National Assembly Deputy, Chairman of the Finance Committee (invited, but ignored the meeting);
- Jean-Louis Masson, Senator (invited, but ignored the meeting);
- Sabine Thillaye, Chairwoman of the Committee on European Affairs at the National Assembly (invited, but ignored the meeting); and
- Marie-France Lorho, National Assembly Deputy (invited, but ignored the meeting).
One of the most showing things about the meeting in the French Senate was the presence of three TV crews, two of which work for Medvedchuk’s channels (112 Ukraine and and ZiK), while the third one was from the Kremlin’s propaganda channel Rossiya.
Medvedchuk engaging in shuttle diplomacy
It turned out that Medvedchuk had a similar meeting in the German Bundestag four days after the round table in Paris. His event was mostly attended by MPs with the ultra-right Alternative for Germany party — Maximilian Krah, Robbie Schlund, and Petr Bystron (the latter was the one who’d sent out invitations). This meeting looked especially hilarious given Medvedchuk’s consistent loathing for rightist ideology in Ukraine.
A year ago, a scandal erupted targeting MP Bystron over his participation in live fire drills in South Africa, organized by the Suidlanders paramilitary organization. German media and polled experts said it was a racist and right-wing radical organization. Only whites are allowed to join Suidlanders. Bystron, as journalists found out, had been practicing at a shooting range during his working trip to South Africa. The politician himself calls Suidlanders “representatives of civil society.”
Before being elected to the Bundestag, Petr Bystron was also suspected of right-wing extremism. For some time he was looked into by the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Today, Bystron is AfD’s major foreign policy representative. Like many other fellow colleagues, he advocates lifting all sanctions imposed on Russia. Bystron called “absolutely normal” the 2018 presidential election in Russia, where he was an observer. In Moscow, the politician was welcomed at a high level: in particular, he was accepted by State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin.
Another co-organizer of the meeting with Viktor Medvedchuk in Berlin was a Kazakhstan-born MP Waldemar Herdt (AfD), who is also an avid critic of Russia sanctions and often quoted by Russia’s state-run media. The politician treats the annexation of Crimea by Russia “with understanding” and was one of the few German politicians who visited the peninsula after Russia grabbed it from Ukraine.
After meetings in Paris and Berlin, Viktor Medvedchuk announced a trip to Moscow. Following communication with the State Duma MPs, the Ukrainian politician announced a joint meeting of parliamentarians of the four countries in Strasbourg. Medvedchuk’s goal, he claims, is “to assist the Normandy format leaders in achieving peace in eastern Ukraine.”
French science fiction writer and his descendants
The leadership of the French Senate decided to distance themselves as far as possible from Viktor Medvedchuk’s (or, more precisely, Moscow’s) “idea”. According to eyewitnesses, all banners, signs, and inscriptions, which would testify to the fact that the conference had been held in one of the Senate’s buildings, were taken out of the meeting room. The same happened in the Bundestag.
There is every reason for such behavior, for in fact, the events were in no way about promoting the ideas of peace. In fact, the data available suggest that some parliamentarians in France and Germany are ready to sacrifice their reputation only to have Viktor Medvedchuk strengthen his political positions in Ukraine.
In August 2018, in my piece “Threat of ‘peace’,” I showed how Medvedchuk and the Kremlin were exploiting Ukrainians’ desire to see a peaceful resolution to the conflict. In the same manner, they exploit both French and German legislators.
On February 28, Medvedchuk’s ZiK TV channel held a telethon titled “It stinks of Soros“. During the telethon, a number of odious Ukrainian politicians vied with each other about how Soros and people he pays are trying to capture and destroy the Ukrainian nation.
During breaks in this TV “show”, editors inserted Viktor Medvedchuk’s political ads, while his VIP promoters were precisely those people who met him in the French Senate and the German Bundestag. Medvedchuk’s political ad aired by the Ukrainian TV channel he owns claims that almost all of Europe has united to support his peace initiatives.
In fact, Medvechuk, who is also a dodgy lawyer, exploits European politicians to prove his worth to Vladimir Putin. After all, after so many years, he remains simply a marginal representative of Russian control in Ukraine. Moreover, Medvedchuk’s comrade-in-arms and organizer of his covens was caught on a blatant lie when Valéria Faure-Muntian, a French National Assembly Deputy with the governing party “Forward, Republic!” saw Oleg Voloshin twist her words.
“I’m in absolute shock,” “I don’t know how one could invent such a thing,” MP Faure-Muntian stated. She was “outraged by the statement” of MP Voloshin on Facebook: “… Valéria Faure-Muntian, a Deputy with Macron’s party, unexpectedly says that ‘this table is ‘lacking separatists’ for better dynamics of the peace process…”
The conclusion to this story is very simple. If you don’t want your name to be abused, don’t attend Viktor Medvedchuk’s meetings. His frantic efforts, in fact, have nothing to do with the work toward peace in Ukraine.