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Russian Police General Poised To Become Next President Of Interpol


The international police organization Interpol has been without a chief since October. That's when its president, a Chinese law enforcement official, was first reported missing. He then resigned as he came under investigation by China's anti-corruption authority. Now his likely replacement is a Russian police general, as NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: His name is Alexander Prokopchuk, a general in the Russian police force who already serves as Interpol's vice president for Europe. Some of President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics oppose his candidacy as Interpol's president. Bill Browder says Putin would effectively gain control of Interpol.


BILL BROWDER: To put his representative in charge of the most important international crime-fighting organization is like putting the Mafia in charge.

KIM: Browder used to be a successful fund manager in Russia but became a Kremlin critic after the death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, in a Moscow prison. Browder pushed the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions human rights offenders and corrupt officials. Russian authorities have since tried repeatedly to get Browder arrested via Interpol. On Tuesday, Browder held a press conference in London with another Putin opponent, exiled oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.



KIM: Khodorkovsky said, as Interpol's new chief, Prokopchuk would follow orders from the Kremlin. But the job of Interpol president is to a large extent symbolic. Day-to-day executive functions are carried out by the secretary general, who is currently a German. Yet David Clark, a former adviser to Britain's Foreign Office, says Prokopchuk's election would still be significant.

DAVID CLARK: The fact that he's there is symbolically important. And it also changes the dynamic of the way the organization works.

KIM: On Monday, four U.S. senators urged the Trump administration to oppose Prokopchuk's candidacy.


DMITRY PESKOV: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters the senators' action was proof that Washington was trying to interfere in the Interpol election. Prokopchuk has only one competitor, Interpol's senior vice president from South Korea. The organization's 194 member nations will elect their next president tomorrow. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ACID'S "TUMBLING LIGHTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lucian Kim is NPR's international correspondent based in Moscow. He has been reporting on Europe and the former Soviet Union for the past two decades.