Britain and America will make a last-ditch bid today to prevent Moscow’s chosen candidate becoming the next head of international policing agency Interpol.
Major General Alexander Prokopchuk was named as the likely successor to former president Hongwei Meng, who was arrested by Chinese authorities over alleged corruption.
Maj-Gen Prokopchuk is currently the chief of the Russian Interior Ministry’s National Central Bureau of Interpol, a post he has held for the past two years and is also the vice-president of the agency – the first Russian to ever hold the post.
Chief of the Russian Interior Ministry’s National Central Bureau of Interpol, Major General Alexander Prokopchuk, has been named the likely successor of Hongwei Meng as head of the policing agency
According to The Times, a prominent Ukrainian MP has accused Mr Prokopchuk of being a foreign intelligence agent who has served in the KGB.
Yesterday senior UK politicians and human rights groups decried his candidacy and called for him to be stopped from getting the top job.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable warned Interpol risked becoming a ‘branch of the Russian mafia’ if he was elected.
And the Foreign Office threw its weight behind South Korean candidate Kim Jong-yang.
Four US senators said his appointment would be akin to ‘putting a fox in charge of a henhouse’ as they and a former FBI deputy director joined the opposition.
And officials in Ukraine and Lithuania said they would consider withdrawing from Interpol if he was elected.
Russia’s use of Interpol ‘red notices’ has been questioned after US businessman and Vladimir Putin critic, Bill Browder (left) and Chechen exiled envoy Akhmed Zakayev (right) have been detained under the controversial warrants
But government sources were said to be ‘gloomy’ about the chances of stopping him, The Times reported.
All Interpol’s 194 member states gets a vote in the secret ballot being held in Dubai today.
The Russian’s election would be an ‘insult’ to the victims of the Salisbury poisonings, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince said yesterday.
In the Commons, Sir Vince called on the Government to campaign against Mr Prokopchuk. He said even the possibility of his election demonstrated that the police organisation was ‘potentially corrupt.’
He said: ‘If this Russian gentleman were to become head of Interpol it would be an absolute insult to the victims of the Salisbury attack.’ He added it would also be ‘a massive propaganda victory for the Putin regime’ and ‘amount to accepting that Interpol has become a branch of the Russian mafia’.
The Government confirmed it will not support the frontrunner’s promotion from his role as vice president. Foreign Office minister Harriet Baldwin said Britain supported South Korea’s Kim Jong-Yang, who is acting president.
The potential appointment of Alexander Prokopchuk has increased concerns that Russia has been using the international policing agency to target political opponents
And in an open letter, the cross-party group of US senators said: ‘Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents and journalists.’ The senators accused Mr Prokopchuk of being ‘personally involved’ in this strategy since being elected to Interpol’s executive committee.
Concerns have long been raised over Russia’s applications for Interpol Red Notices, or arrest warrants, for critics of the Kremlin.
British financier Bill Browder said the move was a bid by Russian president Vladimir Putin to ‘expand his criminal tentacles to every corner of the globe’. Mr Browder, who was arrested in Spain this year under a Moscow-issued Red Notice, secured US sanctions against the Russians linked to the death of his tax consultant.
Similar notices have also been issued under a British request for the Russian agents accused of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury – Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga.
Browder, who claims Russia has used Interpol six times to abuse him, compared the appointment to Nazi Germany’s control of the agency in the 1930s.
He tweeted: ‘Russian tipped to take over Interpol in Kremlin victory. This is absolutely astonishing, but not without precedent. Nazi Germany took over Interpol in the 1930’s.’
Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul said the candidacy was ‘worrying for anyone who believes in the rule of law’.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been repeatedly jailed, also attacked the move.
‘Our team has suffered from abuse of Interpol for political persecution by Russia,’ he said.
‘I don’t think that a president from Russia will help to reduce such violations.’
Meng was missing for several days last month before the Chinese authorities confirmed he had been detained over bribery allegations.
A letter of resignation, purporting to come from Meng, was later sent to Interpol informing it of his decision to step down as president.
His wife, Grace, who is in hiding in France, revealed he sent her a text message with a knife emoji on the day he went missing and she remains ‘extremely’ concerned about his safety.
Her husband, whose whereabouts are still unknown, is the latest high-profile target to be ensnared in China’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign as Interpol was accused of colluding with Russia over his detention.
The Kremlin denounced Mr Prokopchuk’s critics, with Putin’s spokesman saying: ‘This is interference… in the election to an international organisation.’
Moscow’s interior ministry attacked a ‘foreign media campaign aimed at discrediting Russia’s candidate’.