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20 Mar, 2007 18:27

Ukraine’s former Interior Minister's apartment searched

Ukraine’s former Interior Minister's apartment searched

The apartment of the former Ukrainian Interior Minister, Yury Lutsenko, has been searched by investigators from the Prosecutor General's office. A criminal case was opened against Mr Lutsenko for alleged abuse of power and office earlier.

Little information has been made available so far.

Police started the search at 6 a.m. on Tuesday. According to Yury Lutsenko’s secretary, his lawyer was kept out of the apartment.

The Department of Criminal Investigation says they want to interrogate Mr Lutsenko on the question of illegal distribution of guns as there are reports that around one hundred guns were given as gifts to him when he was in office in the Interior Ministry. 

It is also known that Mr Lutsenko contacted a few deputies from the Our Ukraine party, David Zhvania among them. Yury Lutsenko said the police are trying to confiscate the money they found in his flat, old membership cards from the Parliament, and even his membership card from the Communist party, as well as some other documents.

The police also tried to question Mr Lutsenko’s wife and son on the ownership of the five computers found in the flat. 

Prime Minister Yanukovich said he had  learnt about the events only on Tuesday morning and immediately contacted the General Prosecutor’s Office to get the details. He made no further comments, though, saying it was necessary to wait for the official results.

For his part, the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Viktor Baloga, said there were clearly political motives behind the search.

As far as political parties are concerned, they gave mixed reactions to the happenings. The Our Ukraine party said they see the search as political pressure and political revenge from the governing coalition.

“This means Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office and security services have once again chosen the path of political score-settling instead of fighting crime. This is a political prosecution of those who support the democratic process in Ukraine,” stressed Head of Our Ukraine party, Vyacheslav Kirilenko.

Yury Lutsenko has a rich political history. He gained fame as one of the leaders of the campaign “Ukraine without Kuchma”. Leonid Kuchma was the country’s second president who sat for two terms, his second term being marked by the events of the “Orange Revolution” two years ago.

Mr Lutsenko also became widely popular during the events of the “Orange Revolution”. It was then that Viktor Yushchenko appointed him Minister of Foreign Affairs. In fact Yury Lutsenko is known as Mr Yushchenko’s right hand. He served as the Minister of Domestic Affairs during three cabinets. However, he was fired some time ago by the cabinet of Viktor Yanukovich.

Mr Lutsenko is known to have launched a few cases against Viktor Yanukovich’s close allies. Also, a few months ago he initiated a civil movement called “People’s Defence”. He toured around Ukraine, trying to persuade people to join him in mass protests in Kiev this spring. The opposition believes it is on these grounds that the Prosecutor General’s office is trying to find him at fault.