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Ukraine Threatens To Suspend Interpol Membership If Russian Elected President


Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says his country will consider suspending its membership in Interpol if a Russian official is elected as the international police agency's new chief.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry quoted Avakov as making the comments in Dubai, where police chiefs from around the world are expected to select a new president on November 20 after the organization's former official in the post was detained in China.

British media have reported that a veteran of Russia's Interior Ministry, 56-year-old Aleksandr Prokopchuk, will most likely be elected despite allegations that Moscow has used Interpol’s procedures to pursue political enemies.

Interpol, which has its headquarters in the French city of Lyon, acts as a clearinghouse for national police services that want to hunt down suspects outside their borders.

"Russia's possible presidency at Interpol is absurd and contradicts the spirit and goals of that organization," a Ukrainian Interior Ministry statement cited Avakov as saying on November 19.

Avakov had earlier warned that having a Russian at the helm of Interpol would pose "a hybrid threat to the whole world."

The comments come amid high tensions between Moscow and Kyiv over Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and its backing for separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people.

Meng Hongwei, who was China's vice minister of public security while also leading Interpol, disappeared while on a trip to China in September.

Beijing later said that he was detained as part of a sweeping purge against allegedly corrupt or disloyal officials under President Xi Jinping's authoritarian administration.

Interpol's general assembly will also assess this week applications for membership from several countries, including Kosovo.

Accepting Kosovo as a full member would allow Pristina among other things to distribute red notices for Serbian officials that Kosovo deems to be war criminals.

Red notices are alerts filed by Interpol to member states that identify suspects wanted for arrest by another country. Interpol says there are 57,289 active red notices around the world.

Kosovo's application is expected to be discussed on November 20. For a country to become a member it needs the approval of two-thirds of the 192 current members.

Two years ago, Interpol introduced new measures aimed at strengthening the legal framework around the red-notice system after facing criticism that governments had abused it to go after political enemies and dissidents.

As part of the changes, an international team of lawyers and experts first check a notice's compliance with Interpol rules and regulations before it goes out.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service and AP
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