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Interpol presidency vote: Russia in surprise loss to South Korea

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Interpol has elected South Korean Kim Jong-yang as its president, rejecting the controversial Russian frontrunner.

According to BBC, Mr. Kim was chosen by Interpol’s 194 member states at a meeting of its annual congress in Dubai.

He beat Russia’s Alexander Prokopchuk, who has been accused of using Interpol’s arrest warrant system to target critics of the Kremlin.

Russia blamed the outcome of the voting on “unprecedented pressure and interference”.

The election follows the disappearance of Interpol’s former president Meng Hongwei, who vanished on a trip to China in September. Beijing has since confirmed he has been detained and is being investigated for allegedly taking bribes.

Who is Kim Jong-yang?

Mr. Kim, 57, beat Mr. Prokopchuk, also 57, by 101 votes to 61 at Interpol’s General Assembly meeting on Wednesday, media reports say.

Interpol confirmed the South Korean’s victory, without revealing the breakdown of the results.

Mr. Kim is a former South Korean police officer who once served as head of police in Gyeonggi, the country’s most populous province.

He was already senior vice-president of Interpol and had been serving as acting president since Mr. Meng’s disappearance. He will serve out the remaining two years of Mr. Meng’s term.

Although his role as president is largely ceremonial – the day-to-day running of Interpol is led by Secretary-General Jürgen Stock – it does wield influence.

Upon his election, Mr. Kim said: “Our world is now facing unprecedented changes which present huge challenges to public security and safety.

“To overcome them, we need a clear vision: we need to build a bridge to the future.”

Who is Alexander Prokopchuk?

Mr. Prokopchuk is a Russian general who worked for many years with Russia’s interior ministry.

While he was Interpol’s Moscow bureau chief, he was accused of abusing the so-called red notice system – international arrest warrants – to target those who were critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

No such accusations have been leveled at him while he has been one of Interpol’s four vice-presidents.

Moscow said Mr. Prokopchuk would remain an Interpol vice-president representing Europe and “focus on strengthening the position of Interpol in the international police community and increasing the efficiency of the organization’s work”.

Who opposed Prokopchuk’s candidacy and why?

There had been growing fears among Russian human rights groups and officials from other countries that Moscow would use his position as president to target its political opponents.

A bipartisan group of US senators said electing Mr. Prokopchuk would be “akin to putting a fox in charge of the henhouse”, while a prominent Kremlin critic said it would be like “putting the mafia in charge”.

This prompted a furious response from Moscow, who said such comments amounted to a “certain kind of interference in the electoral process of an international organization”.

Both the UK foreign office and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threw their weight behind Kim Jong-yang’s candidacy. Lithuania and Ukraine had threatened to withdraw from Interpol if Mr. Prokopchuk was elected.

Two British-based prominent critics of the Kremlin – financier Bill Browder and ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky – say they plan to launch a legal bid to have Russia suspended by Interpol.

 

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