Avakov sees no reason to ask for asylum in Italy

On Tuesday 17 April, Arsen Avakov, former Kharkiv Regional Governor, ally of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and likely successful candidate in this year’s parliamentary elections, gave a press conference. Since Mr Avakov is presently in Italy with the Ukrainian authorities having applied for his extradition, the conference was by skype.

Arsen Avakov immediately stated that while he would tell the truth, he would not tell it all. For example, he did not wish to say where exactly he was in Italy, but stressed that the Italian authorities do know.

He says that he is under no restraint measure and can travel freely within the country pending the decision on whether or not to extradite him.

He stated his intention to lodge a defamation suit with an Italian court against Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office which has been falsely informing people that he is under house arrest.

Mr Avakov explained about his detention. Since the reports circulated in Ukraine spoke of him driving around in a huge Mercedes, he explains that it was a Mercedes, but the smallest model available. And he was driving on a day which the Mayor has declared a car-free day. He had no idea. He stresses that the police stopped him not to fine him, but simply to ask if he knew it was a Day without Cars. He only asked for documents when he found a foreigner behind the wheel, thus finding on his computer that Avakov was on the wanted list.

Arsen Avakov was impressed by the conditions of imprisonment with there being no discomfort except in being deprived of ones liberty. .

He maintains that the Italian authorities have no doubts that the criminal case against him is politically motivated, and thinks that the extradition request will be turned down. He is therefore planning to take part in the coming parliamentary elections on the party candidate lists. He does not plan to return to Ukraine before being elected, but also has no intention to ask for political asylum.

Avakov was detained in Italy on Sunday 25 March. The charges against the former Governor and popular opposition politician in Kharkiv are ominously reminiscent of those against Tymoshenko, former Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko and others. They involve the same “abuse of power” clause which has given cause for concern regarding selective use of justice with relation to more prominent leaders of the opposition.


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