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Prominent Ukrainian Politician Detained In Corruption Probe

Former Ukrainian lawmaker Mykola Martynenko (file photo)

KYIV -- Ukrainian investigators are seeking a court order to place an influential former lawmaker who is suspected of embezzlement in pretrial custody.

Mykola Martynenko was detained in Kyiv late on April 20 after the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) announced it was preparing to file charges against him.

Special anticorruption prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskiy said on April 21 that prosecutors would seek a custody decision from a Kyiv court later in the day.

Martynenko is the second prominent political figure to have been detained in less than three months in Ukraine, whose government has faced pressure from its own citizens, Western governments, and the IMF to crack down on corruption.

An ally of former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former chairman of parliament's fuel and energy committee, Martynenko is suspected of embezzling $17.3 million in a scheme involving a state company that provides uranium for nuclear power plants.

The court was also expected to rule on custody for Serhiy Pereloma, a former Odesa chemical plant chief who faces the same charges.

Ukrainian tax and customs service chief, Roman Nasirov, was detained in early March in another case seen as a test of the government's commitment to fighting corruption.

Observers say corruption harms the economy and hurts Ukraine's chances of throwing off the influence of Russia, which seized Crimea in 2014 and backs separatists whose war against government forces has killed more than 9,900 people in eastern Ukraine.

With reporting by AP