Minister Resigns Over Drunk Row

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko on Tuesday submitted his resignation to parliament in the wake of a drunken conflict with German airport police.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko speaks during a news conference in Kiev 12 May, 2009.

Lutsenko denied he and a group of colleagues travelling on government business were so intoxicated a week ago at Frankfurt am Main airport law enforcers had to remove them from their plane by force.

Ukraine's parliament must approve the resignation letter, and the President also agree to it before Lutsenko is formally removed from office.

Lutsenko's position in Ukrainian government became increasingly untenable last week after reports by German police and media alleged he and his son threw objects at Lufthansa airline staff, and called security personnel "Nazi pigs", after a pilot refused to take the Ukrainians on board, citing their extreme intoxication.

Blood tests administered by German police on Lutsenko's son Oleksander Lutsenko, also a member of the official Ukrainian delegation, found him to be intoxicated close to three times safe levels.

The senior Lutsenko avoided the mandatory blood test by showing German police a Ukrainian diplomatic passport.

German airport police subsequently manhandled Lutsenko and other members of the Ukrainian delegation from the plane, and the Lufthansa flight departed to South Korea more than an hour late, reports initially published by Bild newspaper said.

The younger Lutsenko was handcuffed during the incident, according to Ukrainska Pravda magazine.

Lutsenko as Ukraine's Interior Minister is the senior police officer in the former Soviet republic. He is a long-time ally of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Statements issued by Lutsenko's office since Wednesday accused German media of inventing the incident, and claimed the dispute between the Interior Minister and airport security "was a small misunderstanding ... that was quickly resolved".

However, German and Ukrainian media citing witnesses and accounts by Frankfurt am Main airport police contradicted Lutsenko's version of events.

Lutsenko since his 2004 appointment has headed Yushchenko's anti-corruption programme, at times coming into conflict with politicians and businessmen claiming Lutsenko's crime-fighting campaigns are aimed primarily at Yushchenko's political opponents.

Lutsenko last year fought with Kiev mayor Leonid Chernovetsky during a city hall meeting, after Chernovetsky accused Lutsenko of ordering police to crack down the mayor's business interests.

Lutsenko punched Chernovetsky in the nose, later explaining to reporters he had no other option as his "personal honour had been insulted".

Source: DPA

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