Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 226

Geneva’s prosecutor, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, arrived yesterday in Kyiv with a team of investigators to collect evidence in the case of former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko (STV, ICTV, 1st Ukrainian TV channel, December 7). Lazarenko, leader of the Hromada Party and possible presidential candidate, was arrested in Switzerland last week on charges of money laundering (see the Monitor, December 4, 7).

The Ukrainian authorities, suspecting Lazarenko of embezzling and then hiding US$20-40 million in Swiss accounts, apparently do not want his extradition because in Ukraine, as a member of parliament, he enjoys immunity from prosecution. Former Ukrainian Acting Prosecutor General Oleh Lytvak said in a television interview on December 6 that the arrest of Lazarenko is the result of a joint two-year work of Ukrainian and Swiss law enforcement agencies. Lytvak announced that Lazarenko’s money is in accounts “everywhere, from Cyprus to the United States.” Lytvak made a sensational statement that Ukrainian investigators have proof of embezzlement in the cases of several ministers of the current cabinet. In Ukraine, he said, “there are some ten [others] of Lazarenko’s caliber” (Inter TV, December 6).

Meanwhile, yesterday some 100 supporters and members of the Hromada picketed the Swiss Embassy in Kyiv, demanding the release of Lazarenko, whom they described as a “political prisoner,” and accusing the Swiss authorities of “political games.” They also claimed that Lazarenko has immunity from prosecution in Switzerland due to his status as a member of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Among the picketers were numerous adolescents, who, speaking to the cameras, could explain neither precisely what they were protesting nor who Lazarenko was (STV, Ukrainian agencies, 1st Ukrainian TV channel, December 7). On December 4, the Hromada released a statement, claiming that the Ukrainian government is using Lazarenko’s detention in Switzerland to discredit the party and Lazarenko as the presidential candidate (Ukrainian agencies and television, December 4).–OV