Officials defend drunk Ukrainian politician

16:12, 08 May 2009
Politics
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Allegations of injuries to police were untrue?

Ukraine`s Interior Ministry hit back Thursday at German police allegations that its minister had been prevented from boarding a plane because of drunken behaviour, saying he was innocent and entitled to his privacy, Reuters reported.

The opposition said Minister Yuri Lutsenko was an embarrassment and demanded his resignation.

A Frankfurt police spokesman said Wednesday Lutsenko had been kept off a flight to Seoul after becoming enraged at suggestions that he and his son were drunk. He said four officers, three men and a woman, were injured in the altercation.

The Interior Ministry said accounts of the confrontation at Frankfurt airport were mainly based on media reports and untrue.

"This totally innocent occurrence prompted by the late arrival of the Ukrainian delegation for the flight was blown out of proportion by invented details and groundless accusations about the `severe inebriation` of a minor...," it said.

Allegations of injuries to police, it said, were "absolutely untrue. We also stand by the accepted legal norm of presumption of innocence and every individual`s right to a private life."

President Viktor Yushchenko ordered an investigation into the incident involving Lutsenko, a prominent figure in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" that swept pro-Western leaders to power.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, closer politically to the minister, offered no comment.

Olena Bondarenko, an opposition Regions Party deputy, said Lutsenko was "playing poker with our country`s reputation."

Any bid to unseat Lutsenko would require a parliamentary vote, presumably with the prime minister`s support.

Lutsenko, 44, was a major force behind the 2004 "Orange" protests against election fraud that led to the Supreme Court calling a rerun of a presidential election won by Yushchenko.

In recent months he had swung behind Tymoshenko, now the president`s arch rival, engaged in nearly constant sniping.

Lutsenko survived several scandals, including an investigation into charges that he illegally owned firearms. Last year, he struck the mayor of Kiev at the close of a top-level meeting after accusing him of corruption.

Reuters

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