KIEV (Reuters) - Interpol has put ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich and two members of his former government on the international wanted list at the behest of Ukraine, according to a notice on its website on Monday.
The international police organization said Yanukovich and his former finance minister, Yuri Kolobov, were wanted in Ukraine on charges of embezzlement and financial wrongdoing. Former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov was also listed though it was not clear what the Ukrainian charges against him were.
Ukrainian authorities said Interpol’s publication of a so-called red notice against 64-year-old Yanukovich and his two allies empowered any police force to hand them over to Ukraine if they were detained. Yanukovich has been living in Russia since he was toppled by street protests in February 2014.
In Moscow, the Russian Interfax news agency quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying Russia was unlikely to grant any request to extradite Yanukovich to Ukraine.
“Today, several months after Ukraine sent a request to Interpol in March 2014 with the arguments and explanations prepared by the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Security Service of Ukraine, an Interpol special commission has come to a decision,” Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook page.
Yanukovich fled to Russia after months of protests in Kiev against his decision to back away from a deal that would have taken Ukraine towards integration with Europe and instead tighten economic ties with Russia, Ukraine’s old Soviet master.
The pro-Western authorities who took over have accused him and a coterie of relatives and close allies, known as The Family, of accumulating huge wealth by robbing state coffers and plundering national assets through corrupt deals.
Yanukovich has denied that he or members of his family were involved in corruption. After he fled, Russia said Yanukovich had been the victim of a “fascist” coup and went on to annex Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
In confrontation with Kiev’s current leadership, Russia has supported separatists in Ukraine’s industrialized east in a conflict in which more than 4,700 people have been killed, though Moscow denies its forces have been involved in fighting.
Additional reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Catherine Evans