Ukraine Govt May Bring Charges Against Top Insiders of Kuchma Regime - Official

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian authorities could bring criminal charges against two major insiders of the previous regime, former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich and the country's reputedly richest man Rinat Akhmetov, a top official said.

'I am deeply convinced that it will happen,' Serhiy Kornich, the chief of the interior ministry's organized crime unit, told Interfax when asked if a criminal case could be launched against Yanukovich.

Yanukovich, who lost a protracted presidential election to President Viktor Yushchenko during last year's 'orange revolution', was questioned by police early this month as part of a probe into alleged government corruption during his term in office.

Yanukovich has called his summons a political witch hunt.

Kornich added that charges are likely to be brought against Akhmetov, widely believed to be Ukraine's richest tycoon and a former close associate of the entourage of former president Leonid Kuchma.

'I am deeply convinced that Akhmetov is the leader of an organized criminal group,' he alleged.

Last year a consortium headed by Akhmetov and Kuchma's son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk, won a bid to buy the country's largest steel mill, Krivorozhstal, for a below-market price during a controversial auction.

In April a court found that the privatisation was unlawful and ordered the consortium to return its 93 pct stake in the steelworks to the government, which plans to conduct a repeat auction for the factory by the end of the year.

Yushchenko's administration has made fighting corruption a top priority. However, the nation's new opposition says the authorities are using the guise of an anti-corruption battle to settle scores and clear the electoral field ahead of next year's crucial parliamentary elections.

Source: AFX