The YouTube channel of Viktor Medvedchuk, the co-chair of Ukraine’s main opposition party, has been suspended just as the country holds crucial municipal elections.

Medvedchuk is a controversial figure in Ukraine, going defiantly against the anti-Russian line to which most other political forces adhere. For example, earlier this month he called on Kiev to purchase the Russian-developed vaccine against Covid-19, which he claimed he had tested on himself.

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The suspension of Medvedchuk’s YouTube channel came out of the blue with no explanation from the video service, which now labels it with a generic message that it had violated terms of service. His party, Opposition platform – For Life, called it an act of political retaliation by the US government for his Russia-friendly, West-skeptical position. It didn’t explain why they believe Washington was behind the move.

Before being banned, the channel had more than 70,000 subscribers, with some videos scoring over a million views. The party bragged that its co-chair was more popular on YouTube than other major Ukrainian politician, including President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The ban was reported on Saturday, a day before Ukraine holds municipal elections throughout the country. Zelensky’s Servant of the People party is fighting an uphill battle to produce a result even remotely comparable to the landslide victory it won last year.

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During the July 2019 general election, the president’s party secured a huge majority in the 450-seat Ukrainian parliament, taking 254 seats. Medvedchuk’s party came a distant second with 43 seats. Recent opinion polls ahead of Sunday’s vote suggest that the Servant of the People party could end up behind both the pro-Russian politician’s grouping, and that of his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko.

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