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Ukraine: Kyiv Seeks Extradition Of Gas Company Execs

Kyiv, 4 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine says it is seeking the extradition from Turkey of four former gas company executives -- three former associates of opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko and her father-in-law. Serhiy Borodenkov, a spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, said Turkish and Ukrainian police detained the four in a joint operation in the Turkish resort of Antalya on 1 June. The four were on an Interpol list of wanted criminals in connection with a case in the United States against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko.

Ukrainian Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod said in January that a district court in Kyiv had issued a warrant for the arrest of the four in connection with the concealment of $181.54 million of the company's hard-currency earnings in 1996 and 1997, as well as for large-scale misappropriation of government funds from 1997 through 1999. The four have also been accused of forging documents and of selling contraband natural gas with a value of $2.25 billion.

Tymoshenko has described the detentions as a politically motivated attack against her opposition activities in parliament. She has appealed to Turkey to grant the four political asylum.

The four were all executives of Ukrainian power monopoly Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine (EESU), which Tymoshenko once led in the 1990s. Tymoshenko, a former deputy prime minister, pushed through reforms of the energy sector before being ousted from the government in 2000 and turning against President Leonid Kuchma.