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Zelensky rival charged with treason

Veteran MP Nestor Shufrich is suspected of spreading pro-Russian sentiments, Ukraine’s main security agency SBU says

Ukrainian MP Nestor Shufrich talking to officers of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) at his home. ©  Telegram / SBU

Member of the Ukrainian parliament and former emergency-services minister Nestor Shufrich has been arrested and is being held on charges of treason issued by a court in Kiev, the country’s capital.

According to footage from Friday’s hearing published by outlet RBK-Ukraine, the judge has ruled that Shufrich will stay behind bars for the next two months.

The politician, who was a member of the Opposition Platform-For Life party before it was banned as pro-Russian on the orders of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky last summer, has also been denied bail.

Earlier in the day, masked operatives from Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) arrived at the MP’s home, informing the 56-year-old that he’s suspected of treason and searching the premises.

The SBU said in a statement that its investigators have “collected a well-argued evidence base about the anti-Ukrainian activities” of Shufrich.

According to the agency, the parliamentarian was an agent of Moscow whose main task was to promote pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine through his media appearances.

“He systematically disseminated the Kremlin’s narratives, that the Ukrainian state is allegedly an artificial entity, that Ukraine and Russia have a single history, and that Ukrainians and Russians are supposedly ‘one nation,’” the SBU claims.

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According to local media, items with Soviet and Russian symbols, including medals, ID cards and the Saint George’s ribbons with which Russians celebrate World War II victory, were found in the search of Shufrich’s home. The lawmaker also allegedly owned a collection of Russian military uniforms.

The investigators also reportedly found a 2014 document that details a plan for the autonomy of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions. Both territories, as well as Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions, officially became part of Russia last year after referendums. Kiev and its Western backers have labeled the votes a “sham.”

Shufrich has been an MP since 1998, appearing in six iterations of the Verkhovna Rada. He also held the post of Ukraine’s Emergency Services Minister in 2006-2007, and in 2010, and was also deputy head of the country’s National Security and Defense Council, from 2010 to 2012.

Russian political analyst and former MP Sergey Markov suggested that Shufrich’s arrest might be a sign that Ukraine is preparing to stage a presidential election next year after all. President Zelensky said earlier that the vote will not be held as the country is under martial law.

Shufrich used to be “one of the most pro-Russian MPs and one of most vivid critics of Zelensky,” but amid the conflict between Moscow and Kiev he “fully backed” the president, Markov wrote on Telegram.

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The analyst said that the MP is being detained by Ukrainian authorities over concerns that he “could suddenly run [in the election] and steal some of the Zelensky’s former voters,” who are disappointed in the president.

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