Update: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the US endorses Acting-Head Kim for Interpol Chief.
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Four US senators, and their mainstream media mouthpieces, are enraged at the idea that Alexander Prokopchuk - a general in the Russian Interior Ministry who is currently a vice president of Interpol - is the front-runner to become its next president; and have urged nations to vote against him.
The position in question became vacant after Interpol's President Meng Hongwei was detained in his homeland China, pending a corruption investigation.
Based in the French city of Lyon, Interpol is a clearinghouse for police agencies around the world, helping them cooperate outside their borders. It is best-known for issuing red notices, or alerts that identify a suspect pursued by another country, effectively putting them on the world's "most-wanted" list.
As AP reports, the Interpol presidency is more of a ceremonial position compared to the hands-on leadership role of the secretary-general. The president oversees the executive committee, which meets a few times a year and makes decisions on Interpol's strategy and direction.
Interpol's charter explicitly proclaims its neutrality, and two years ago it introduced measures aimed at strengthening the legal framework around the red notice system. As part of the changes, an international team of lawyers and experts first check a notice's compliance with Interpol rules and regulations before it goes out.
But the potential of a Putin loyalist in such a prominent role has prompted concern among those critical of the Russian president's leadership.
AP reports that Kremlin foes including financier Bill Browder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexei Navalny have warned that naming a top Russian police official to lead the international law enforcement agency will undermine Interpol and politicize police cooperation across borders.
As RT reports, the four US senators said in a statement, released on Monday, that electing Prokopchuk as the head of Interpol is "akin to putting a fox in charge of a henhouse."
.@SenatorShaheen, @marcorubio, @chriscoons, and I oppose Russian leadership of Interpol. Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents, and journalists. Read our full statement here: https://t.co/1GpKqcI9An— Senator Roger Wicker (@SenatorWicker) November 19, 2018
Today’s sanctions should be a signal to Russia that the United States will not sit idly by while they repeatedly try to destabilize Western democracies, & I will continue to push for additional sanctions to hold the Kremlin accountable for its crimes. My statement: pic.twitter.com/TT5v3fynI5— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) April 6, 2018
Along with the senators, media mouthpieces also added to the arguments:
Last week, a report in The Times named Prokopchuk, who currently serves as one of Interpol's vice-presidents, "favorite" to lead the organization. The official also heads the nation's Interpol bureau. His election as Interpol's president will signify a "victory" for the Kremlin, the paper reported.
As soon as the report surfaced, the Western media published several opinion pieces, blasting Prokopchuk's candidacy.
A Forbes contributor called him an "abuser-in-chief," while the piece, published by the Washington Post editorial board on Monday, referred to him as "a wolf at Interpol's door."
Prokopchuk's election would be "a colossal mistake and would imperil the organization's integrity," the Post editorial board wrote.
The Kremlin branded this "intervention" in the voting process, accusing unnamed Kremlin critics of trying to politicize the upcoming election of the Interpol president.
In a Tuesday statement Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Irina Volk lashed out at critics, which she did not name, accusing them of running a "campaign to discredit" the Russian candidate Alexander Prokopchuk. She said that Prokopchuk, who is an Interpol vice-president, is a respected professional, and, if elected, he will be leading the organization "in the interests of the international police community."
Interpol's general assembly is expected to elect its new president on Wednesday.