Czechs Grant Asylum To Ukraine's Ex-Economy Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- A former Ukrainian economy minister was granted political asylum by the Czech Republic, a sign of increasing international disquiet over the Ukrainian government's investigations of leading opposition figures.

Bohdan Danylyshyn

Bohdan Danylyshyn, an ally of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, had been detained in Prague, the Czech capital, in October on an international warrant issued by Ukraine. He was accused of abuse of office in connection with a tender in which the state allegedly lost $1.8 million, a charge he denies.

Instead of turning him over to Ukrainian authorities, the Czech government decided to let him remain in the country, a spokesman for the Czech Interior Ministry said Thursday. He didn't elaborate.

The Ukrainian general prosecutor's office declined to comment, saying it had received no official word of the decision.

Supporters of Ms. Tymoshenko, now an opposition leader, called the Czech action a rebuke of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's administration. "This decision sends a powerful signal to the president to stop the campaign against the opposition," said Hryhoriy Nemyria, an adviser to Ms. Tymoshenko.

U.S. and European Union officials have recently raised concerns that by investigating and detaining several allies of Ms. Tymoshenko, the authorities appeared to be selectively targeting the opposition.

Ms. Tymoshenko was herself ordered to the general prosecutor's office on Thursday to study details of charges, filed in late December, that she misspent $425 million of government funds allotted for environmental spending. Yuriy Lutsenko, her former interior minister, is in detention on charges of abuse of office. Both deny the charges.

Ms. Tymoshenko says the detentions and investigations are aimed at jailing and discrediting Mr. Yanukovych's leading opponents.

The president's administration says it is clamping down on corruption in the previous government.

Since narrowly defeating Ms. Tymoshenko in a presidential runoff in February 2010, Mr. Yanukovych has moved quickly to cement his authority and sideline his rival, ousting her from government and appointing close allies to the posts of prime minister, security-service chief and head of the central bank.

Critics have accused Mr. Yanukovych and his allies of intimidating nongovernmental organizations, rigging local elections and overseeing a decline in press freedom, accusations his administration denies.

Source: The Wall Street Journal