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Ukraine's ex-interior minister appeals arrest

RIA Novosti

12:21 30/12/2010

KIEV, December 30 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, in custody on abuse of office charges, appealed his arrest on Thursday.

Lutsenko was arrested on Sunday after prosecutors charged him with misusing his position of authority while investigating the poisoning of former president Viktor Yushchenko.

Lutsenko appealed the decision by a Kiev court that sanctioned his arrest earlier this week, his lawyer Igor Fomin said.

"Lutsenko disagrees with the ruling by the Pechyorsky Court of Kiev because it is groundless and gravely violates Ukraine's Criminal Code," Fomin said.

Lutsenko faces up to 12 years in jail if found guilty.

Yushchenko was poisoned in the run-up to Ukraine's presidential election in 2004. The poison, TCDD - the most harmful known dioxin - badly disfigured his face, leaving him looking weak, bloated and years older.

Yushchenko accused Russia of "attempted murder," but it has denied any involvement.

Lutsenko's case is the latest in a crackdown on senior members of the country's previous government since President Viktor Yanukovych took power in February.

Earlier this month, former prime minister turned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko was charged with misusing $425 million of public funds while in office. She has rejected the accusation, saying she is being targeted for challenging Yanukovych.