Ex-Governor Accused Of Extortion Returns To Ukraine From U.S.

KIEV, Ukraine -- A former governor accused of extortion was taken into custody Saturday for questioning after returning to Ukraine from the U.S. He later was released on bail, reports said.

Volodymyr Shcherban

Volodymyr Shcherban, 55, is accused of extortion and abuse of power during Ukraine's tumultuous 2004 presidential election.

Shcherban, who was in the U.S. when the charges were filed, applied for asylum in July 2005 and was detained in October of that year, four days after his visa expired.

The United States has no extradition treaty with Ukraine but officials from both countries began the deportation process.

He was questioned by prosecutors upon his arrival in Ukraine and then released on bail after three lawmakers from Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's party vouched for him, news agencies reported.

Shcherban said he had returned voluntarily.

"I had no aim to commit a crime. I just fulfilled my obligations. The truth will triumph," Shcherban said in remarks shown on Ukraine's TV5.

No one at the Prosecutor General's office was available for comment Saturday.

Shcherban was governor of the northeastern Sumy region until January 2005, when Viktor Yushchenko took office as president and fired several high-ranking regional officials.

Shcherban previously had been a supporter of Yushchenko, who was an opposition leader before he won the bitterly contested presidential race. But in 2002, Shcherban fell out with Yushchenko's camp and joined the People's Choice party, which was allied with ex-President Leonid Kuchma.

Yushchenko expressed his concern over the decision to grant bail to Shcherban, Interfax reported.

The pro-Western Yushchenko and the Russian-leaning Yanukovych share power in an awkward arrangement that initially was billed as an effort to unite Ukraine.

Instead, it has turned into a tug-of-war for influence, with the president largely on the losing end.

Yanukovych, who lost the 2004 presidential race after hundreds of thousands protested his fraud-marred victory, was named prime minister after his pro-Russian party won the March parliamentary elections.

Source: AP