Russian President Vladimir Putin promised a response to the "cleansing up the political field" in Ukraine. What can Putin do?
During a video conference on May 14 with members of the Russian Security Council, Putin commented on the persecution of Viktor Medvedchuk, the co-chairman of the pro-Russian Ukrainian party Opposition Platform for Life.
Putin pointed out that the Ukrainian authorities, at the suggestion of the West, tend to turn the country into an antipode of Russia, "into some kind of anti-Russia." Therefore, Moscow will constantly monitor news from Ukraine that requires special attention from the point of view of security.
Putin pointed out that Ukraine is "cleansing the political field", and Russia will react to that accordingly.
"For political reasons, someone is selectively blamed for working with Russia in the economic sphere, although many, including those from the top political leadership of the country, have been actively working in Russia for many years, and, by the way, in Crimea too, and that is considered to be just fine," Putin said.
"This is undoubtedly a question that we should always keep an eye on, and we will have to react to this timely and properly, taking into account all the threats that they create for us," the president said.
It is an open secret that it is not only Medvedchuk (a Ukrainian MP) and his companies that conduct economic cooperation with Russia. Russia is one of Ukraine's three biggest trade partners as of 2020. Ukraine's exports to Russia amounted to $2.7 billion, imports — to $6.7 billion.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky receives part of his income from Russia. For example, Zelensky's company Kvartal-95 sold "Papik" TV show to Russia's STS TV channel. According to Zelensky's official declaration, he received dividend from Kvartal-95 for 2020 worth $166,000.
Former President Petro Poroshenko (also an MP) is still the owner of the largest cement company in Crimea — the Bakhchisarai Cement Plant.
The question is how Putin will "properly" respond to Zelenskiy's challenge.
Sanctions appear to be the most likely option. Russia currently keeps 84 Ukrainian companies under sanctions. Noteworthy, in October 2020, the Russian government allowed the supplies of equipment and products from three Ukrainian companies — Bratslav, Barsky Machine-Building Plant and Rubezhansky Cardboard Mill. The restrictions from those companies were lifted after Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin's meeting with Viktor Medvedchuk. The parties negotiated cross-border cooperation.
Now Moscow may take a closer look at the property that Zelenskiy's wife and others own in Crimea. Sectoral sanctions seem possible too, for example, on the supplies of electricity and fuel.
On May 13, Viktor Medvedchuk was taken under round-the-clock house arrest until July 9. He is charged with "high treason" and "attempted plunder of state resources in the occupied territory."
According to President Zelensky, Medvedchuk was deprived of the opportunity to inflict "destructive harm to state security" with the help of legal instruments.
"One oligarch out," Zelensky wrote in his column for Focus magazine.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated