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Russian candidate to lead Interpol opposed by U.S. lawmakers

By Clyde Hughes
Russian candidate to lead Interpol opposed by U.S. lawmakers
Interpol will elect a new chief on Wednesday, which may prove to be a controversial selection. Photo by Wallace Woon/EPA-EFE

Nov. 20 (UPI) -- International police organization Interpol will elect a new head Wednesday, and the front-runner appears to be a Russian general who does not have the support of some U.S. lawmakers.

Interpol President Meng Hongwei resigned last month after he was detained by a Chinese anti-corruption watchdog. Interpol's general secretary received Meng's resignation hours after China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced he'd been detained while under investigation for possible criminal activity.

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Russian Maj. Gen. Alexander Prokopchuk is now tabbed as the favorite to replace Meng -- leading some to fear it will embolden the Kremlin in its activities.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday Prokopchuk and South Korean police commissioner Kim Jong-yang have been nominated for the post.

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Interpol's vote will be held in Dubai Wednesday.

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire and Chris Coons of Delaware have called on President Donald Trump and other countries to reject Prokopchuk's candidacy.

"Interpol electing Maj. Gen. Alexander Prokopchuk as its new President is akin to putting a fox in charge of a henhouse," the senators wrote in a statement. "Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents and journalists."

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The senators issued their statement, which appears on Wicker's website, on Monday ahead of the international election.

"Alexander Prokopchuk has been personally involved in this intimidation strategy which ultimately seeks to weaken democratic institutions and embolden Putin's authoritarian regime. If elected as president by the members of Interpol's General Assembly on Wednesday, we have no doubt that Mr. Prokopchuk will further institutionalize the abuse of Interpol red notices and block ongoing efforts at meaningful reform."

The Kremlin on Tuesday responded to the criticism by accusing the United States of attempting to meddle in the Interpol vote.

"This is probably some kind of meddling in the electoral process, in elections to an international organization," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "How else can that be seen? Here, this is a clear manifestation (of meddling). Nevertheless, the elections will take place, so let's wait for the results."

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