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Russian candidate is front-runner in election for Interpol's new president

Maj. Gen. Alexander Prokopchuk is the top contender to become president of international police agency Interpol. He also has close ties to the Kremlin. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

The Interpol General Assembly is set to vote on a new president Wednesday, and the top contender for heading up the international police organization is a Russian with close ties to the Kremlin.

What are the details?

Last month, former Interpol President Meng Hongwei left the position vacant after being detained in China by government officials during a trip to his homeland. Meng's whereabouts are unknown, and his resignation was submitted by Beijing.

Interim President Kim Jong Yang of South Korea — who stepped in after Meng's departure — is seeking to make his position permanent, but he is being challenged by Interpol vice president and reported front-runner Russian Alexander Prokopchuk.

Prokopchuk is a former general in the Russian Interior Ministry. The New York Times reported that former colleagues of Mr. Prokopchuk regard him as well qualified, "and members [of the General Assembly] are encouraged to vote for the individual, not the country."

Bill Browder, British fund manager and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin — who was arrested in Spain earlier this year on a warrant sent from Moscow — told The Times that he considers Prokopchuk to be a "nameless faceless bureaucrat."

He added, "I can't imagine a more inappropriate person than a person who has been the architect of the abuse doled out to me by Russia at Interpol. This is a perfect way for Putin to basically breathe the fear of God into all of his enemies so they know they can't even escape Russia if one of his guys is at the head of Interpol."

In an interview with Reuters, Browder explained, "This particular individual has been responsible for trying to chase me down and have Interpol arrest me seven times. All of a sudden, this guy is now put in charge of the institution he's been trying to abuse for the last six years."

Four U.S. senators issued a letter on Tuesday, urging the Trump administration to oppose Prokopchuk for the Interpol presidency. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Jeanne Shaheen (R-N.H.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) wrote, "Interpol electing Major General Alexander Prokopchuk as its new President is akin to putting a fox in charge of a henhouse," according to The Hill.

"Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents and journalists," they added.

How did Russia respond?

The Wall Street Journal reported that Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call on Tuesday that the U.S. senators' statement was "a kind of election interference, [in] the election held by this international organization."

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