Ukraine ex-Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko arrested

Image caption,
Mr Lutsenko heads an opposition group and backed the 2004 Orange Revolution

Ukrainian police have arrested former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, an ally of opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Opposition groups say Mr Lutsenko's arrest on Sunday for alleged abuse of office is politically motivated.

Mr Lutsenko was already under investigation. The chief prosecutor's spokesman said he was detained because he had not read his case file.

Ms Tymoshenko has been charged with misusing state funds.

Security cordon

Mr Lutsenko was arrested by at least 10 Alpha special forces officers while walking his dog on Sunday, the AFP news agency reports.

Masked men from the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) guarded the Kiev court entrance as Mr Lutsenko appeared there on Monday. Activists from his own party, Narodna Samooborona (People's Self-Defence), demonstrated outside.

Mr Lutsenko is being held for two months and can appeal.

His lawyer, quoted by AFP, said the case against him was part of an investigation into the poisoning of former president Viktor Yushchenko in 2004. At the time Mr Yushchenko was still a presidential candidate.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Lutsenko conspired with his driver to misuse state funds.

Yuri Stets, a deputy from Narodna Samooborona, said the prosecutors had not provided any evidence against Mr Lutsenko.

Power struggle

In 2004 Mr Yushchenko and his Orange Revolution allies, including Ms Tymoshenko, overturned the election of Viktor Yanukovych, after international observers had labelled it fraudulent.

But in a dramatic political comeback, Mr Yanukovych was elected president in February this year, beating Ms Tymoshenko.

Earlier this month, she was accused of misspending money Ukraine had received from the sale of its carbon emission rights under the Kyoto Protocol.

She denied the allegations, saying she was being targeted for standing up to President Yanukovych.

She was questioned by the authorities on Monday. She said what was going on in Ukraine was a sign of political repression and government hysteria. She referred to the authorities as "this mafia".

Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said there was no political subtext in the case against Mr Lutsenko.

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