(AFP) – Ukraine has charged a prisoner swap negotiator with plotting to assassinate the country’s Western-backed president as well as other officials by staging attacks on their homes and offices with mortar fire and grenades.
The charges were leveled against Ukrainian national Volodymyr Ruban on Friday, just a day after he was arrested with a haul of firearms and ammunition in his vehicle while crossing the “grey zone” dividing Russia-backed pro-independence fighters in the east of the country.
Ruban, 50, has organized a number of prisoner swaps between the two warring sides during four years of fighting that has so far left more than 10,000 combatants and civilians killed.
“Ruban is suspected of preparing armed attacks against senior government officials,” the presiding judge in Kiev declared as quoted in a report by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
While the circumstances of government allegations against Ruban remain sketchy, he has accused the authorities in Kiev of framing him, insisting that he was never aware that the vehicle he was detained in carried weapons.
In a move that will likely complicate the case even further, President Petro Poroshenko asked Ukrainian Security Serice Chief Vasyl Grytsack to take personal charge of the investigation, AFP reported Friday.
“I ask you — I order you — to take this under your personal control,” Poroshenko told Grytsak in a “televised meeting,” as described in the report.
Ukrainian media had previously accused Ruban of harboring pro-Russian sentiments and supporting the pro-Russia fighters without elaborating on details.
Meanwhile, the charge sheet prepared against Ruban accuses him of planning to use “mortar guns, grenade launchers, light weaponry and explosive devices” to attack the homes of Poroshenko and other officials.
The officials allegedly targeted by Ruban included Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and National Security and Defense Council chief Oleksandr Turchynov along with former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other undisclosed authorities.
The judge further stated that Ruban’s objective was to “create chaos… and help Russia launch a full-scale offensive” that would put the separatist region in eastern Ukraine under its permanent control.
Russia, however, rejects either plotting or backing the internal Ukrainian conflict in order to destabilize its western neighbor as Kiev is charting closer ties with a US-led Western alliance.