Ukraine Presses Russia Over Fugitive

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is demanding an explanation from Russia about the release this week of a former high-ranking Ukrainian official wanted in connection with the loss of state funds, Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko said Thursday. Lutsenko said Ihor Bakay, who under former President Leonid Kuchma headed a powerful department responsible for state property, was detained in Moscow, then freed.

Ukraine issued an international arrest warrant for Bakay earlier this year in connection with the loss of 500 million hryvna ($99 million) in state funds.

Lutsenko said on Ukrainian television that Ukraine was given no formal explanation of why Bakay was freed after about four hours of questioning at a Moscow police station on Tuesday.

Ukrainian police say Bakay was freed 30 minutes after an unidentified person arrived at the station with a Russian passport bearing Bakay's name.

He is widely reported to have obtained Russian citizenship after former opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko won last year's presidential race, defeating Kuchma's handpicked candidate.

The Interior Ministry said it had been assured by the Russian immigration service that Bakay had not received Russian citizenship, and it called on Russia to fulfill its international obligations and hand him over.

Bakay is one of many former Ukrainian officials believed to have sought refuge in Russia, which actively supported the losing presidential candidate last year.

Also on Thursday, the Interior Ministery issued an international arrest warrant for Volodymyr Rudenko, former deputy head of the Sumy region. Rudenko is wanted on charges of misappropration of state property and abuse of power. Rudenko's whereabouts are unknown.

Source: AP

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