Interpol red-flags former Ukraine leader as EU deadline looms
Interpol, the international police agency, has red-flagged former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych and three associates.
It said on Monday (12 January) they are wanted in Ukraine on charges of “misappropriation, embezzlement or conversion of property by malversation … in respect of an especially gross amount”.
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The other men are: former Ukrainian PM Mykola Azarov; ex-finance minister Iurii Kolobov; and a former Ukrainian telecoms executive Georgii Dzekon.
For his part, Ukraine interior minister Arsen Avakov said the same day on his Facebook page that Interpol has also put one of Yushchenko’s sons, Olexandr, under a red notice.
The EU last March imposed an asset freeze on Yanukovych and 17 others, including Azarov, Kolobov, and Yanukovych junior.
It is unclear how many of them have been flagged by Interpol because it sometimes keeps its notifications quiet.
The Lyon, France-based police agency, also on Monday, noted a previous Ukrainian request to red-flag the ex-president on charges of “abuse of power and murder” is still pending.
It added that it never issues red notices for “political” reasons.
With Yanukovych believed to be hiding in Russia, it also underlined that a “red notice” does not oblige Interpol members to arrest or extradite people, but merely informs them that a fellow member is seeking help.
Meanwhile, Avakov complained that Russia is refusing to honour 23 bilateral extradition requests on former regime members.
Yanukovych fled his mansion in the outskirts of Kiev last February after he was deserted by his security forces amid an increasingly violent uprising.
His former home has been turned into a museum of corruption.
He has been charged in Kiev with abuse of power, organised mass murder, and public calls for the overthrow of the constitutional order, but not treason.
Ukraine prosecutors have also filed corruption cases against Yanukovych, Azarov, and most of the other names on the EU blacklist.
But Ukrainska Pravda, a Ukrainian investigative website, reported last month that most of the investigations are moving at a snail’s pace.
It added that sluggish EU implementation of its own measures has seen some of them move around assets in Cyprus, Austria, Germany, and Italy.
All 18 of the EU-listed persons have challenged the measure in the EU court in Luxembourg.
Their official designation says the EU did it because they are “subject to investigation in Ukraine for … the embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds”.
Ukrainska Pravda notes that if Ukrainian prosecutors cannot substantiate the charges against them by 6 march - the date the EU blacklist expires - then EU institutions might opt not to extend them for another year.