Ukraine's former finance minister is arrested near Valencia over £6m 'embezzlement'

Yuri Kolobov was part of the pro-Russian government that was ousted following protests in February last year

Alistair Dawber
Thursday 05 March 2015 18:29 GMT
Yuri Kolobov may now face extradition to Kiev, where he
is likely to face other charges
Yuri Kolobov may now face extradition to Kiev, where he is likely to face other charges (AFP)

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Louise Thomas

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Ukraine’s former finance minister, Yuri Kolobov, has become the first member of the former, pro-Russian, government in Kiev to be arrested after he was detained by Spanish police near Valencia.

Mr Kolobov served under the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted following the protests in the Maidan, or Independence Square, in February last year.

He has been sought by the new administration in Kiev since August and in January Interpol issued an international warrant for his arrest. Along with Mr Yanukovych and the former Ukrainian prime minister, Mykola Azarov, he is accused in the warrant of misappropriating public funds and of embezzlement – of as much as $10m (around £6.6m).

It is likely that the Ukrainian government will request his extradition. Mr Kolobov, the former deputy head of Ukraine’s central bank, is likely to face other charges if he is returned to Kiev. As a whole, the former pro-Kremlin government is accused of misusing billions of dollars of public funds. Mr Yanukovych, who is estimated to have a personal fortune of up to $12bn, fled to Russia following the collapse of his government.

Ukraine’s new prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, told the parliament in Kiev that Mr Yanukovych had left Ukraine with debts of $75bn, and that $20bn worth of gold reserves had also gone missing. As the former finance minister, and the highest ranking official of the former regime to be arrested, Mr Kolobov is likely to face questioning about both.

He was detained at a luxury holiday home in a complex in the small town of Altea on the Costa Blanca. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry confirmed the arrest and Spain’s Civil Guard released a video showing Mr Kolobov being led away in handcuffs and placed in a police van. He will appear before a Spanish judge who will hear any application by the Ukrainian government for his extradition.

Ukraine has been in turmoil since the protests that toppled the Yanukovych government. Russia says the new government is illegitimate; the result of a coup by orchestrated by the West. Separatists in Ukraine’s east have fought a bloody civil war against the Ukrainian military.

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