In an unexpected twist, Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko now says his reported kidnapping was actually a sting operation designed to trap an organized crime group.
Honcharenko on February 23 told state news agency Ukrinform that he was "bait" to nab a group that was planning a series of crimes.
The strange turn comes after Odesa regional prosecutor Oleh Zhuchenko said earlier in the day that Honcharenko, a Verhovna Rada deputy of the Poroshenko Bloc that backs Ukraine's president, had been kidnapped by a group organized by Oleksandr Kushnaryov, a member of the Odesa region's Lyman District assembly.
Officials then said the alleged abductors had been apprehended and that Honcharenko was free and in a safe place.
But Honcharenko told reporters the kidnapping was fake, and the suspected potential kidnappers were duped into making the abduction attempt at a site where authorities were waiting.
Honcharenko has been a vocal critic of the Russian government and has staged public protests against Moscow’s interference in Ukraine.
He was briefly detained in Moscow in 2015 during a rally to honor slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. He claimed he was beaten by Russian authorities.
Tensions are high between the Kyiv and Moscow since Russia seized control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014. It has also given its support to separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 9,750 people have been killed since April 2014 in fighting between government forces and the separatists.
With additional reporting by 112-Ukraina television channel and dpa