A Kyiv court has released the 29-year-old son of Ukraine’s powerful interior minister after his arrest the day before by anticorruption officials on embezzlement charges.
Oleksandr Avakov, son of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, was released on November 1 on his own recognizance after agreeing to wear an ankle monitor and to hand in his passport.
Arsen Avakov had confirmed on October 31 that his son had been detained by the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) after his home in the eastern city of Kharkiv had been searched.
NABU had said in a statement that arrests had been made, including a deputy interior minister, in an embezzlement case, but it did not immediately release the suspects’ names.
The younger Avakov faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted of "embezzling, wasting, or obtaining assets through abuse of power."
Prosecutors had asked the court to detain Avakov prior to his trial, but Kyiv's Solomyanskiy District Court ordered his release, with the requirement that he wear an ankle bracelet and report to a judge should he want to leave the capital.
Before his release, Avakov told the court that "I believe this case is completely politically motivated and has nothing to do with the rule of law."
Former Deputy Interior Minister Serhiy Chebotary was also detained, the authorities said.
Ukraine's Interior Ministry also said it considered NABU's actions “grounded in politics rather than the law."
"A hybrid war that is going on in Ukraine focuses on discrediting politicians and officials who firmly stand for reforming and improving state institutions, in particular the law enforcement system," a statement said.
The case centers on a 2014-15 government contract for the purchase of military backpacks that was awarded to a company controlled by Volodymyr Lytvyn, a friend of Oleksandr Avakov and a co-defendant in the case.
NABU alleges that Lytvyn's company sold the bags at an inflated price of about $111 each that cost the state some 14 million hryvnyas ($520,000).
The bureau's prosecutors accuse Oleksandr Avakov of being the middleman who illegally directed the deal toward Lytvyn.
The case threatens to split apart the slender majority of Ukraine’s ruling coalition consisting of Arsen Avakov’s People's Front and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's bloc.
Reports in the Ukrainian media have said that disagreements between Avakov and Poroshenko are intensifying, and Avakov said his son’s detention was an attempt to put pressure on him.
With reporting by AFP, AP, 112.ua, and Ukraiynska Pravda