KYIV, Feb 5 - Authorities in Ukraine say they are investigating allegations that Viktor Medvedchuk, a shadowy Ukrainian political operative with close personal ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has committed high treason and sought to undermine the country's territorial integrity.
The spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, Larysa Sarhan, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that Ukraine's Security Service will investigate the case that was launched following a complaint filed by lawmaker Andriy Teteruk, RFE/RL reported.
But some politicians said the investigation is a smoke screen ahead of presidential election in March designed to strengthen image of President Petro Poroshenko.
Medvedchuk and Poroshenko have been quietly and successfully cooperating in the motor fuel retail sector and television, Serhiy Leshchenko, an independent lawmaker, said.
“This is the story of deception of public by Poroshenko,” Leshchenko said Tuesday. “Poroshenko and Medvechuk are partners in the fuel sector and television.”
“Who is going to believe this circus?” Leshchenko said.
Medvedchuk heads the Opposition Platform -- For Life party and Ukrainian Choice, two political organizations that many in Ukraine consider to be pro-Kremlin.
Teteruk claimed that Medvedchuk told his party congress on January 29 that territories controlled by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine must be granted autonomous status within the country, according to Sarhan.
Sarhan cited the constitution stating that Ukraine is a "unitary country" and guaranteeing the country’s "territorial integrity."
The spokeswoman also said that Russia was "conducting aggressive operations against Ukraine" by supplying the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions with military "personnel, weaponry, and other materials."
Granting autonomy to the eastern region known as Donbas would "legalize temporarily occupied territories," which would contradict the Ukrainian constitution and help "a foreign country to conduct sabotage operations against Ukraine," Sarhan added.
In a statement, the Opposition Platform -- For Life party denounced the accusations against Medvedchuk as "delusional," and said the investigation had been ordered by Kyiv's pro-Western authorities ahead of presidential elections set for March 31.
Medvedchuk is a regular participant in negotiations aimed at resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014. (rfe/ez)