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7 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine's interior minister says the head of the regional parliament of eastern Donetsk province, Borys Kolesnikov, was arrested on extortion charges yesterday.
Yuri Lutsenko made his remarks today to the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv. He said Kolesnikov's arrest is for criminal reasons, not for political reasons.
"This case is purely criminal," Lutsenko said. "The investigation established that the head of the Donetsk regional council of deputies, (Borys) Kolesnikov, threatened certain people with murder unless they transferred company shares they owned to him and some other persons."
Lutsenko's remarks came as thousands of supporters and opposition lawmakers in eastern Ukraine are protesting the arrest of Kolesnikov. His supporters say the charges are politically motivated.
Ukraine's ombudswoman, Nina Karpacheva, earlier said that the charges against Kolesnikov do not warrant his arrest.
During last year's tumultuous presidential campaign, Kolesnikov was a prominent supporter of former prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.