Eleven Ukrainian political parties have been suspended because of their links with Russia, according to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The country’s national security and defense council made the decision to ban the parties from any political activity. Most of the affected parties were small, but one of them, the Opposition Platform for Life, has 44 seats in the 450-seat Ukrainian parliament.
“The activities of those politicians aimed at division or collusion will not succeed, but will receive a harsh response,” Zelenskiy said, in a video address on Sunday.
“Therefore, the national security and defense council decided, given the full-scale war unleashed by Russia, and the political ties that a number of political structures have with this state, to suspend any activity of a number of political parties for the period of martial law,” the Ukrainian leader added.
The Opposition Platform for Life, Ukraine’s biggest opposition party, is led by Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Moscow oligarch with close ties to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Party officials later said the suspension “had no legal basis.”
The Ukrainian authorities last year charged Medvedchuk, a longtime ally of Putin who is believed to be the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter, with treason and placed the oligarch under house arrest, a move that angered the Kremlin.
Ukraine said Medvedchuk escaped house arrest three days after Russia started its invasion into Ukraine on February 24th and his whereabouts are currently unknown.
The list of parties banned on Sunday also included the Nashi (Ours) party led by Yevhen Murayev, as well as a number of smaller parties not represented in the parliament. Prior to the start of the war, unspecified British intelligence claimed that Russia was considering installing Murayev to lead a Kremlin-controlled puppet government in Kyiv, claims that Murayev strongly denied.
Ukraine’s decision to suspend a number of parties was slammed by senior Russian officials on Sunday, with the chair of the Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, saying “it was another mistake” made by Zelenskiy that will “divide the country”, while ex-president and top security official Dmitry Medvedev sarcastically wrote that the move would bring Ukraine closer to the west.
“The most democratic president of modern Ukraine has taken another step towards the western ideals of democracy. By decision of the Council for National Defense and Security, I have completely banned any activity of opposition parties in Ukraine. They are not needed! Well done! Keep it up,” Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel.
The political move comes as Zelenskiy aims to further assert his influence over the country’s media sphere. On Sunday, the Ukrainian leader signed a decree that aims to unite all national TV channels into one platform, citing the importance of a “unified information policy” under martial law.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism