KIEV, March 20 ‚Äď The home of Yuriy Lutsenko, a Ukrainian opposition leader and former internal affairs minister, was searched on Tuesday as prosecutors had been apparently looking for evidence to support earlier corruption allegations.
Later in the day, Lutsenko was summoned up to the Prosecutor General Office for an interrogation where the prosecutors had told him that he must not leave the city of Kiev for the time of the investigation.
The moves temporarily disrupted Lutsenko‚Äôs campaign throughout the country where he had been criticizing the government for ineffective policy and lack of reforms. Lutsenko has been urging people to join a protest march on Kiev later this year to put pressure on the government to accelerate reforms.
‚ÄúAll this is aimed at restricting my traveling within the country,‚ÄĚ Lutsenko said. ‚ÄúThey are panic-stricken with fear over the people‚Äôs activity.‚ÄĚ
Lutsenko‚Äôs rallies throughout the eastern regions have been showing unexpectedly large turnouts with at least 10,000 supporters recently joining the rally in Kharkiv, the city known as the stronghold of pro-Russian groups.
A similar response was seen in other cities, such as Dnipropetrovsk, and Lutsenko has been preparing to visit Donetsk and Luhansk, the strongholds of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
The developments are the latest in actions by the Yanukovych government apparently seeking to silence the opposition groups amid attempts to strengthen Yanukovych‚Äôs grip on power.
A live political television talk show, Toloka, was unexpectedly cancelled on Tuesday after featuring two opposition leaders, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine leader Viacheslav Kyrylenko.
This is the first time a popular television show was cancelled over the past 2.5 years, a sign that the Yanukovych government may be trying to introduce censorship on the state television.
There were signs that the government has been increasingly worried about Lutsenko‚Äôs upcoming protest march on Kiev.
A week ago, Internal Affairs Minister Vasyl Tsushko authorized training and marching of riot police forces on Khreshchatyk Street in downtown Kiev for the first time in many years.
The training was apparently aimed at discouraging protesters against joining the anti-government rally that is being promoted by Lutsenko and his movement, People‚Äôs Self-defense.
Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko, an ally of Yanukovych, said the investigators during the search had been looking for evidence that Lutsenko had obtained alleged gifts from a businessman, including pieces of furniture and computers.
This comes as Lutsenko won a court ruling in December 2006 that had forced the prosecutors to close the case. However, the case has been recently re-opened.
A Lutsenko spokesman said the investigators had been apparently also searching for an Israeli passport that the General Prosecutor Office claims Lutsenko has obtained several years ago. Lutsenko denied the allegations that he has the Israeli citizenship. (tl/ez)