Oleksandr Yefremov, former Head of Ukraine’s Party of Regions Faction, Arrested at Airport for Aiding LNR

July 30, 2016
Oleksandr Yefremov, former governor of Lugansk Region, former head of Party of Regions faction in Ukrainian parliament. Photo by Unian

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Oleksandr Yefremov, former Head of Ukraine’s Party of Regions Faction, Arrested at Airport for Aiding LNR

Oleksandr Yefremov, former governor of Lugansk Region and former head of the Party of Regions faction in the Ukrainian parliament, was arrested today July 30 at Borispyl as he was boarding a plane to Austria. He was accused by the Prosecutor General’s Office of aiding the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” (LNR), Unian.net reported.  He was also accused of “changing Ukraine’s borders” and taking over the coal plant Luyganskugol.
His lawyer denies all the charges, Unian reported.
Prosecutor General Lutsenko said that there would “likely” be other arrests related to undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty (translation by The Interpreter):
“Mr. Yefremov is one of the suspects in a case of organizing terrorist groups, encroachment on the territorial sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. We want to take a look as a whole at the actions of a large number of officials, ordinary participants in this criminal organization. For this, we need cooperation with civil society.”
The Ukrainian government has designated the Russian-backed militants in Ukraine as “terrorists” and the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic” as “terrorist groups.”
Lutsenko also offered a deal to Yefremov, whereby he would provide testimony on the early stages of the formation of the LNR, to gain information about others “who led to thousands of deaths and destructions in the Ukrainian east.”
The offer would not exonerate him of criminal liability, but might lessen his punishment:
“If citizen Yefremov would provide testimony about, I think, were the plans of the Russian Federation leadership known to him at the very start of the unleashing of aggression against Ukraine, about who first brought in Russian fighters to the territory of Lugansk to seize the SBU building, then the OGA [Regional State Administration] and so on, who financed, armed the home-grown separatists.

I think that the investigation will take into consideration his testimony. From my perspective, citizen Yefremov is a very valuable witness who can provide testimony about how the situation developed at the early stage of the Russian Federation’s undeclared war against Ukraine.”

Lutsenko is being held in an investigation cell of the Ukrainian State Security (SBU).

Under Ukrainian law, he is supposed to be brought before a judge within 72 hours of his arrest.

Lutsenko was previously arrested and released on bail in 2015 on similar charges. 

An SBU general said that he supported the detention of Yefremov, but it was unlawful, Gordonua.com reported.He also said it would have been easier to try him in absentia if he had left the country.
In a separate case, the prosecutor’s office has summoned for interrogation all the members of the Radical Party faction in the parliament headed by Oleh Lyashko.
Lyashko himself has ignored 20 summonses he has been sent.

The prosecutor is investigating a statement that Lyashko made saying that he would offer $50 million for not suporting the prosecution of parliamentary member Serhiy Klyuyev.

Last year, the EU extended until March 2016 sanctions placed on Klyuyev and other officials related to the Yanukovych government responsible for human rights violations. But ultimately they unfroze his assets along with others originally sanctioned, due to insufficient evidence, although he was kept on the sanctions list.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick