A Ukrainian blogger and politician accused of “high treason” by kyiv has been arrested in Spain, police said Thursday.
Ukraine’s security service said it carried out a “multi-level special operation” alongside Spanish authorities and the Ukrainian Interior Ministry to arrest Anatoly Shariy, a blogger-turned-politician whom it accused of “inciting hatred”. A Spanish police spokeswoman confirmed that Shariy had been arrested.
In a Facebook post after the arrest, Ukraine’s security services said they had “reason to believe” Shariy was acting “on orders” from foreign agents. “This detention is another testimony to the fact that every traitor of Ukraine will sooner or later receive the punishment he deserves,” the security service added.
It remains unclear why Spanish authorities have decided to detain Shariy now, given that Ukraine’s security services first filed charges against the blogger in February 2021.
Shariy, once known for his investigations into allegations of corruption in the Ukrainian government, has been widely accused by Ukrainian media and politicians of peddling pro-Kremlin narratives to his large online audience. Shariy strongly denies the allegations, and once sworn give €1,000 to anyone who can demonstrate pro-Russian content in their posts.
The blogger, who has nearly 3 million subscribers on YouTube alone, fled Ukraine 10 years ago, claiming he was being persecuted by authorities in kyiv, and was granted political asylum in Lithuania. In 2021, Vilnius revoked his permanent residence permit and declared him persona non grata, although by then Shariy had already moved to Spain.
In 2019, the blogger launched Shariy’s Party, a right-wing Eurosceptic political party that went on to win 2.2% in the general election the same year. In March, the party was suspended along with others for alleged links to the Russian government.
Reacting to his arrest, Shariy post emojis waving Ukrainian security service pigs and clowns on Twitter, while asking his followers for donations on his Telegram channel.
The blogger would now be transported to Madrid, where a judge will decide on his extradition to Ukraine. According to Ukraine’s constitution, high treason carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years, while incitement to hatred can carry a maximum sentence of eight years behind bars.
Shariy’s lawyer and Ukraine’s attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to POLITICO’s requests for comment.