Ukrainian prosecutors confirmed on Sunday they have charged former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko with abuse of office while investigating the poisoning of former president Viktor Yushchenko, a spokeswoman said.
Lutsenko was detained by Ukraine’s security service, SBU, while walking a dog on Sunday morning, his political party, the People’s Self-Defense, said in a statement.
Lutsenko faces up to 12 years in jail if convicted, his spokeswoman, Irina Kisil, told RIA Novosti.
Lutsenko has said charges against him, including embezzling state funds and giving senior officer’s ranks to his driver, are politically motivated.
Former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election with TCDD – the most harmful known dioxin – that badly disfigured his face, leaving him looking weak, bloated and years older.
He was defeated by incumbent Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by then Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the Orange Revolution protests overturned the election results and brought Viktor Yushchenko to power.
Yushchenko accused the Kremlin of trying to kill him but it has denied any involvement.
Lutsenko’s case is the latest in a Yanukohych-driven crackdown on senior members of the country’s previous pro-Western government.
Last week, former prime minister turned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko was charged with misusing $425 million of state funds while in office. She has rejected the accusation, saying she is being targeted for challenging Yanukovych.