Kremlin foes fume as Russian set to be Interpol chief

Leroy Wright
November 21, 2018

Russian dissident and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Tuesday gave a news conference in London alongside USA -born Kremlin critic Bill Browder at which both warned against Prokopchuk's election, saying it would make it easier for the Kremlin to manipulate Interpol.

"What else can you call it?"

Interpol's 194 members each have a vote in Wednesday's election, it said on its website.

The support comes as US lawmakers have been lobbying the Trump administration to oppose Russian candidate Alexander Prokopchuk, . amid accusations Russia has been abusing Interpol.

The group's chief, Jago Russell, expressed concern that a Russian official as Interpol president could stall or reverse those reforms and do potentially fatal damage to Interpol's reputation.

In a statement on Monday, US senators Jeanne Shaheen, Roger Wicker, Chris Coons and Marco Rubio urged members of Interpol's General Assembly to reject Prokopchuk's candidacy.

The election of the global organisation's next president is set to be held on Wednesday at Interpol's general assembly in Dubai. "Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the objective of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents and journalists".

In a separate development, UK Foreign Office minister Harriet Baldwin also backed the candidacy of Kim Jong Yang, while Sir Vince Cable, a Liberal Democrat leader, claimed that if Prokopchuk, who is now serving as Interpol's vice president for Europe, was elected, the agency risked becoming a "branch of the Russian mafia". Beijing later said Meng resigned after being charged with accepting bribes. Likewise, Lithuania also said it would consider withdrawing. "I don't think that a president from Russian Federation will help to reduce such violations".

Concerns have always been raised over Russia's applications for Interpol Red Notices, or arrest warrants, for critics of the Kremlin.

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The public prosecutor said it would seek the death penalty for five suspects in the case. President Donald Trump's efforts to preserve ties with a key ally.

Bill Browder, who runs an investment fund that had once operated in Moscow, and oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky told reporters in London that Putin has tried to use Interpol to hunt down critics such as themselves.

Asked about the senators' statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it amounted to meddling in the vote.

To Moscow, the complaints are all part of a Western-led campaign to weaken a resurgent Russian Federation.

Moscow's interior ministry attacked a "foreign media campaign aimed at discrediting Russia's candidate".

Based in the French city of Lyon, Interpol is a clearinghouse for police agencies around the world, helping them cooperate outside their borders.

Human rights groups raised the alarm two years ago when Interpol's general assembly approved Meng Hongwei, a longtime senior Chinese security official, as president.

The Kremlin on Tuesday responded to the criticism by accusing the United States of attempting to meddle in the Interpol vote.

The presidency is largely ceremonial, but oversees the executive committee, which decides Interpol's strategy and direction.

Browder was briefly detained by Spanish police in May on a Russian Interpol red notice that was then deemed invalid.

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