US opposes Russian nominee to lead Interpol

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced that it is opposing Russia’s nominee to lead Interpol, citing the Kremlin's “abuses” of the international police organization to go after political opponents.

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the administration supports South Korea’s nominee instead of Russia's nomination of Maj. Gen. Alexander Prokopchuk.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The United States strongly endorses Kim Jong Yang, a South Korean member of the INTERPOL Executive Committee who is serving as Acting President,” Marquis said in a statement.

“As recent events show, the Russian government abuses INTERPOL’s processes to harass its political opponents," he added. "INTERPOL and its member countries must uphold policies that advance international police coordination and preserve the rule of law."

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump admin to discuss sending additional military force to Middle East amid Iran tensions: report Buttigieg: Iran situation 'disturbingly reminiscent' of lead-up to Iraq War Buttigieg: Iran situation 'disturbingly reminiscent' of lead-up to Iraq War MORE on Tuesday also pushed for Kim to serve as its acting president, a role that became vacant when Meng Hongwei resigned earlier this year after Chinese authorities detained him, later charging him with corruption.

"We encourage all nations and organizations that are part of Interpol and that respect the rule of law to choose a leader with credibility and integrity that reflects one of the world's most critical law enforcement bodies," Pompeo said. "We believe Mr. Kim will be just that."

Prokopchuk's nomination sparked bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill.

"Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents and journalists," wrote four senators, including Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (R-Fla.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Democrat: Trump Mexico tariff threat 'hopefully' a breaking point for GOP MORE (D-Del.), in a joint statement.

The senators said Prokopchuk has been "personally involved" in Russia's "intimidation strategy" and argued that making him Interpol's president would be like putting a "fox in charge of a henhouse."

"If elected as President by the members of Interpol’s General Assembly on Wednesday, we have no doubt that Mr. Prokopchuk will further institutionalize the abuse of Interpol red notices and block ongoing efforts at meaningful reform," the senators wrote.

The Kremlin responded, with presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that the U.S. lawmakers’ statement was akin to “a kind of election interference, the election held by this international organization," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Western officials as well as human rights activists allege that the Kremlin has used Interpol’s international arrest-warrant system to block the government's opponents from traveling, among other abuses.

Updated at 3:23 p.m.