Washington (AFP) – Interpol's run for president on Tuesday was a tug of war between the United States and Russia, with Washington "firmly" supporting Russia's competitor, while Moscow denounced "inadmissible politicization" ".
The world police have been without a president since the sudden "resignation" of his former boss, Meng Hongwei, who was accused of corruption in China and who mysteriously disappeared in early October during a trip to his country.
Meeting in a general assembly since Sunday in Dubai, Interpol delegates are expected to elect its replacement on Wednesday and two candidates are in the running: the current interim president, South Korean Kim Jong-yang, and a senior Russian official, Alexander Prokopchuk .
The United States, through their Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said Tuesday they "strongly support" the South Korean.
"We encourage all nations and organizations that are part of Interpol and respect the rule of law to choose an honest leader, and we believe that this will be the case of Mr. Kim," said the head of the US diplomacy.
Although the post of president is more honorary than operational, the candidacy of Alexander Prokopchuk, a 56-year-old Russian general, has made the Moscow critics jump, fearing that the international organization will become a tool in the service of the Kremlin.
Warnings have multiplied since the daily The Times said Sunday, citing British sources, that Mr. Prokopchuk was the favorite of the poll.
Four US senators have called, in an open letter released Monday, the delegates of the 192 member countries of Interpol to reject his candidacy.
"Recent events have shown that the Russian government abuses Interpol's procedures to harass its political opponents," spokesman for the US National Security Council Garrett Marquis told reporters on Tuesday.
– "Criminal tentacles" –
Among the other most vocal opponents of the Russian bid is British financier William Browder, the former boss of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison in 2009, whose extradition Russia has been trying for years and years. who was briefly arrested this year in Spain because of an arrest warrant issued by Interpol.
Russia will "extend its criminal tentacles to every corner of the planet" if Prokopchuk is elected president, Browder denounced on Twitter.
With Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oligarch who became an opponent in exile, he announced in London on Tuesday his intention to launch a procedure to "suspend" Russia from Interpol.
"I seriously fear that if Mr Prokopchuk is elected President of Interpol, then, by order of the Kremlin, he will be ready to do absolutely anything," said Khodorkovsky.
The number one opponent of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny, for his part claimed on Twitter that his team had "suffered abuse of Interpol because of political persecutions by Russia.I do not think that a Russian president will help reduce these violations ".
Ukraine and Lithuania, for their part, threatened to withdraw from Interpol in case of election of the Russian general.
– Red Notices –
This outcry provoked a strong reaction from Moscow, who said on Tuesday that Prokopchuk, if elected, would work "exclusively in the interests of the international police community".
The Russian Interior Ministry also stressed his "experience" and described the hostile reactions to his candidacy as "inadmissible politicization".
According to his biography on the website of the Russian Ministry of the Interior, which he joined in the 1990s, Alexander Prokopchuk obtained the rank of police general in 2003 and started working with Interpol in 2006, first in as deputy head of the Russian office of the organization.
This polyglot was also responsible for co-operation with Europol, the European Criminal Police Agency, then appointed to the Interpol Executive Committee in 2014, before being elected Vice-President in November 2016.
The successful candidate will have to complete the four-year term that Mr. Meng was to complete in 2020, but the true boss of Interpol is in fact his general secretary. This is until next year the German Jürgen Stock, who recalled in early November that the post of president was "essentially honorific".
However, Andrei Soldatov, the editor of the website Agentura.ru, specialized in intelligence affairs, is convinced that "the use of Red Notices" (which relay the arrest warrants of member countries) for Political prosecutions will "increase" in case of election of Mr. Prokopchuk.
"Interpol is a system that Russia has started to use well for its purposes, which creates problems (people on Red Notice, ed), they are stopped at the border, they lose a few days," he said. still told AFP.