A Ukrainian blogger and politician accused of “high treason” by Kyiv has been detained in Spain, police said Thursday.
Ukraine’s security service said it had conducted a “multi-level special operation” alongside Spanish authorities and Ukraine’s interior ministry to arrest Anatoly Shariy, a blogger-turned-politician whom it has accused of “incitement to hatred.” A spokeswoman for the Spanish police confirmed that Shariy had been detained.
In a Facebook post following the arrest, Ukraine’s security service said it had “reason to believe” Shariy was acting “on the order” of foreign agents. “This detention is another testimony to the fact that every traitor of Ukraine will sooner or later receive their deserved punishment,” the security service added.
It remains unclear why Spanish authorities moved 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 alleged corruption in Ukraine’s government, has been widely accused by Ukrainian media and politicians of peddling pro-Kremlin narratives to his large online following. Shariy strongly denies the allegations, and once vowed to give €1,000 to anyone who could demonstrate any pro-Russian content in his posts.
The blogger, who has almost 3 million subscribers on YouTube alone, fled Ukraine 10 years ago, claiming that he faced persecution by Kyiv’s authorities, and was granted political asylum in Lithuania. In 2021, Vilnius revoked his permanent residency permit and declared him persona non grata, although by that time Shariy had already moved to Spain.
In 2019, the blogger launched the Party of Shariy, a right-wing, Euroskeptic political party that went on to score 2.2 percent in a general election the same year. In March, the party was suspended alongside others for suspected ties to the Russian government.
Reacting to his arrest, Shariy posted emojis branding Ukraine’s security service pigs and clowns on Twitter, while asking his followers for donations on his Telegram channel.
The blogger will now reportedly 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 could lead to a maximum penalty of eight years behind bars.
Shariy’s lawyer and the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment by POLITICO.