Ukraine's ex-PM questioned over alleged abuse of state funds

Ukrainian investigators questioned former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych Monday in connection with the alleged mishandling of government funds, an interrogation the opposition leader said was politically motivated.

Yanukovych was summoned before anti-organized crime investigators to testify about last year's transfer of 4.8 million hryvna (US$950,000; Ђ740,000) from the state budget to the airport in his hometown of Donetsk.

He turned up more than half an hour late for his scheduled questioning, and entered the police building with his lawyer, Olena Lukash.

"In my opinion, authorities use such methods to distract society's attention from the growing problems in our country," Yanukovych said as he entered the building, adding that he considered his summons "a political order."

He emerged after more than three hours of questioning, repeating that he has nothing to fear "because I don't consider myself guilty."

No charges were filed against him, though Yanukovych acknowledged that he could be summoned again "at any time, on any day." Police declined to comment.

Yanukovych had ignored two previous summons, complaining that the first was issued via the media. He didn't explain why he skipped the second summons, but this time Interior Ministry officials sent the notice to Yanukovych's lawyer and to the headquarters of his political party, Party of the Regions.

Yanukovych lost a bitterly contested presidential election last year after the Supreme Court annulled his victory on grounds of massive fraud and ordered a revote that was won by pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko.

He remains the main figurehead of the opposition, which has accused the government of trying to humiliate and intimidate its opponents with the threat of criminal action.

Last month, Ukrainian prosecutors questioned Yanukovych over the business dealings of Borys Kolesnikov, a jailed regional official, but no charges were brought.

Yushchenko, inaugurated in January, has pledged to hold his former adversaries accountable for the corruption and links to organized crime that plagued former President Leonid Kuchma's decade-long tenure.

Yushchenko has pointed to Yanukovych's hometown Donetsk region, where voters turned out in force to support Yanukovych in last year's presidential race, as having one of the worst records of corruption.

MARA D. BELLABY, Associated Press Writer

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