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Interpol elects South Korean as president in blow to Russia

The Russian candidate Alexander Prokopchuk was strongly opposed by the US, UK and other European nations.

South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang has been elected as Interpol’s president ahead of the controversial Russian candidate.

Mr Kim edged out Alexander Prokopchuk, a long-time veteran of Russia’s security services who was strongly opposed by the US, UK and other European nations.

The surprise election result was seen as a victory for the White House and its European partners, who had lobbied up until the final hours before the vote against Mr Prokopchuk’s attempts to be named the next president of the policing organisation.

The US and others expressed concern that if Russia’s candidate had been elected, that would have led to further Kremlin abuses of Interpol’s red notice system to go after political opponents and fugitive dissidents.

Russia accused its critics of running a “campaign to discredit” its candidate, calling Mr Prokopchuk a respected professional.

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Alexander Prokopchuk was the favourite to win (Russian Interior Ministry/AP)

Groups campaigning to clean up Interpol celebrated the win, as did South Korea. South Korea’s police and Foreign Ministry issued a joint statement saying Mr Kim’s election is a “national triumph” that could elevate South Korea’s international standing.

Mr Kim’s win means he secured at least two-thirds of votes cast at Interpol’s general assembly in Dubai. He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor, Meng Hongwei, who was detained in China as part of a wide anti-corruption sweep there.

Mr Kim, a police official in South Korea, was serving as interim president after Meng’s departure from the post and was senior vice president at Interpol.

Russia’s Interior Ministry said after the vote that Mr Prokopchuk, who is one of three vice presidents at Interpol, will remain in that position.

Spokeswoman Irina Volk told the Interfax news agency that Mr Prokopchuk will “focus on advancing the stature of Interpol in the international police community and making its work more effective”.

Most of Interpol’s 194 member countries attended the organisation’s annual assembly this year, which was held in an opulent Dubai hotel along the Persian Gulf coast.

Interpol was facing a pivotal moment in its history as delegates decided whether to hand its presidency to Mr Prokopchuk or Mr Kim, who were the only two candidates vying for the post.

Based in the French city of Lyon, the 95-year-old policing body is best known for issuing “red notices” that identify suspects pursued by other countries, effectively putting them on the world’s “most-wanted” list.

Critics say countries like Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and China have used the system to try to round up political opponents, journalists or activists, even though its rules prohibit the use of police notices for political reasons.

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