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Ukraine Formally Charges Donetsk Legislature Head

Kyiv, 12 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine today formally charged Borys Kolesnykov, the head of the legislature in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk Oblast, with racketeering.

Vyacheslav Astapov, a spokesman for Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office, said Kolesnykov is charged with coercing others to transfer their property or property rights while abusing his powers.

The specific charges against Kolesnykov are extortion, abuse of office, and making death threats. He faces up to 12 years in jail if convicted.

Kolesnykov's arrest earlier this month sparked protests in Donetsk and later in Kyiv. His supporters say the charges against him are politically motivated.

Kolesnykov's arrest comes during President Viktor Yushchenko's anticorruption campaign. Yushchenko has pledged to root out corruption he says was allowed to run rampant during former President Leonid Kuchma's rule.

Yushchenko's office says that the case against Kolesnykov has no political subtext.

(RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service/ITAR-TASS/AP)