Ukraine court orders ex-government minister detained on suspicion of treason

(Reuters) - A Ukrainian court on Friday ordered a former government minister detained for 60 days with no option of bail on suspicion of espousing pro-Russian sentiments and committing treason.

Nestor Shufrych is accused of maintaining contacts with a fugitive Ukrainian parliamentarian suspected by investigators to have worked for Russian security services and of abetting plans to encourage pro-Moscow separatism in eastern Ukraine.

A video of a Kyiv court ordering Shufrych's detention circulated on numerous Ukrainian news sites.

"This is what the authorities need," Shufrych said in a video issued by Public Suspilne Television as court officials placed him in handcuffs and led him away.

News reports quoted Shufrych's lawyers as saying they would appeal the court's ruling.

Shufrych was long a member of political groups friendly to Moscow, including one party banned since Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

He served as Minister of Emergency Services under disgraced President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine after a mass uprising in 2014 that triggered Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Investigators from the SBU security service said he also had close links with Viktor Medvedchuk, a business magnate and former parliamentarian sent into exile in Russia last year in exchange for Ukrainian prisoners of war.

The investigators said Shufrych had been carrying out instructions by Russian and pro-Russian officials to promote pro-Moscow policies inside Ukraine.

He held talks with separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and urged Ukraine's authorities to consider making a deal with Moscow over the creation of pro-Russian territories there.

Despite the party ban, Shufrych remained a member of parliament and since 2019 had chaired a committee on freedom of speech.

Authorities said a search of Shufrych's home on Friday found documents on creating separatist entities in eastern Ukraine as well as Russian medals and other regalia.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Oleksandr Kozhukhar; editing by Grant McCool)