Kiev Appeal Court Rules To Keep In Custody Ukraine Ex-Interior Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Court of Appeal of Kiev has ruled to extend the custody term for Ukrainian ex-Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, refusing him bail.

Yuri Lutsenko

Lutsenko promised the court not to leave the territory of Ukraine. “I’ ve never run and I will not run, I’m not hiding behind someone's back and not going to do so,” said the former minister.

Nevertheless, presiding judge Alexander Bets said that the court found no sufficient grounds to question the decision of the first instance court. In addition, he said, the Court of Appeal of Kiev took into account the seriousness of the crimes committed by Lutsenko and his behaviour.”

On December 27, 2010, the Pechersk District Court of Kiev chose a measure of restraint for Lutsenko in the form of arrest. The ex-minister and his driver Leonid Pristuplyuk on December 13 were finally charged with large-scale embezzlement of state property, as well as abuse of office and using forged documents. In addition, one more criminal case of abuse of authority and office was opened against Lutsenko.

Yuri Lutsenko was detained in Kiev on December 26, 2010, the press service of his party People’s Self-Defence reported earlier. He was detained in Staronavodnaya Street near the house where the former minister lives.

Officers of the Ukrainian Security Service in the presence of representatives of the prosecutor’s office put him into a car and drove away. Earlier, the prosecutor’s office slapped on the ex-minister an accusation of committing crimes, connected with embezzling state property in a large size by abusing his office.

There was no official report on detention of Lutsenko, but it has become known that he was brought to an investigation ward of the Ukrainian Security Service.

Several ranking officials from the former government, headed by Yulia Timoshenko, are now in custody, including former head of the State Customs Service Anatoly Makarenko and present deputy head of the customs house and ex-governor of the Dnepropetrovsk Region Viktor Bondar, former Minister of Environment Control Georgy Filipchuk, former First Deputy Minister of Justice Yevgeny Korniychuk, former first Deputy Defence Minister Valery Ivashchenko and former deputy head of the Naftogaz Ukrainy Company Igor Didenko.

Ex-Minister of Economy Bogdan Danilishin was detained in Prague. The Prosecutor-General’s Office instituted 18 criminal cases against ranking officials, said on Friday Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka.

According to the prosecutor-general, the total sum of damage to the state tops 2.5 billion US dollars. Prosecution completed investigation of eight cases, arresting nine people.

“All these crimes were committed deliberately,” the prosecutor-general said. He is sure that funds, stolen from the state, will be returned to the budget. Pshonka noted that the Prosecutor-General’s Office put on the Wanted List ex-chairwoman of the State Treasury Tatyana Slyuz who occupied this office under premier Yulia Timoshenko in 2007-2010.

Leader of the opposition party Batkovshchina (Homeland) and Ukrainian ex-premier Timoshenko has become a permanent visitor of the investigation department of the Prosecutor-General’s Office over the past few days. On December 20, she was accused of an excess of her powers, entailing grave consequences.

The ex-premier is accused of channelling money the country received for selling offsets for emission of greenhouse gases within the Kyoto Protocol, to cover the deficit of the pension fund. Timoshenko is also charged with other accusations, including purchase of ambulances for rigged-up prices. She was released on recognisance not to leave.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is not sure that Timoshenko’s case will be brought to court. “I’m not sure that there would be court hearings. If facts are proven during the investigation that she is not guilty, the accusation will be dismissed. And If court hearings start, we are interested that they should be just and all evidence should be submitted,” Yanukovich said in an interview to three Ukrainian TV channels on December 25.