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Ukraine asks Italy to extradite opposition leader

Published:Wednesday | March 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM

KIEV (AP):

Ukraine is asking Italy to extradite a former governor and senior member of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's party on charges of abuse of office.

The prosecutor general's office said yesterday that Arsen Avakov, former head of the eastern Kharkiv region who leads the regional branch of Tymoshenko's party, was arrested in Italy on Ukraine's request. Avakov stands accused of misappropriating over 50 hectares (125 acres) of land.

Tymoshenko's party has dismissed the accusations against Avakov as retribution for his political activities and asked Italian authorities to free him.

Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last October on charges of abuse of office condemned as politically motivated by the West. A top member in her former cabinet has been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic.