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Ukrainian Prosecutors Hail Ex-Premier's Conviction In U.S.

4 June 2004 -- Ukrainian prosecutors today hailed as a "major development" the conviction of former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko by a U.S. jury on charges of using his power to extort tens of millions of dollars, among other charges.

A federal jury yesterday concluded that Lazarenko, 51, used his position as prime minister and as a provincial governor to enrich himself.

Serhiy Rudenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office, called the decision "a major development."

He pointed out that Lazarenko is also wanted in Ukraine to face charges of murder and embezzlement of public funds.

The deputy presidential chief of staff, Vasyl Baziv, said Ukrainian prosecutors are "eagerly awaiting" the return of Lazarenko, who is the subject of an international arrest warrant.

Lazarenko has claimed he is the victim of political persecution by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.