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Sunday, February 21, 1999 Published at 21:30 GMT

World: Americas

Ukrainian ex-PM held in US

Mr Lazarenko sitting in parliament in Kiev, June 1997

US officials have confirmed that they are holding the former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Pavlo Lazarenko, who is wanted in Ukraine on charges of large-scale corruption and embezzlement.

He was arrested on Friday by immigration authorities at John F Kennedy airport in New York on suspicion of illegally entering the United States.

Mr Lazarenko left Kiev last week, as parliament was about to lift his immunity from arrest.

The Itar-Tass news agency says the Ukrainian Government has requested the extradition of Mr Lazarenko.

A Ukrainian Embassy spokesman in Washington told reporters that an appropriate request was forwarded to the US State Department, Tass reported.

Mr Lazarenko became prime minister in 1996 but was sacked the following year by President Leonid Kuchma.

He now leads the centrist opposition Hromoda party and has accused President Kuchma and his allies of trying to blacken his name with corruption charges.

Last October, he alleged that the authorities were plotting to kill him.

Mr Lazarenko also faces money-laundering charges in Switzerland.

He was arrested in December as he tried to enter Switzerland on a Panamanian passport. He was later indicted for alleged money laundering and was released on $3 million bail.

Mr Lazarenko admitted moving money to Swiss accounts but says he acquired it legitimately.

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