Viktor Yanukovych
Ukraine's then-President Viktor Yanukovych is shown speaking during a news conference in Kiev, on March 1, 2013. Reuters/Gleb Garanich

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has been withdrawn from Interpol’s "most wanted" list following complaints from his legal representatives that the criminal charges brought against him were politically motivated. The controversial former leader, who stood down from power in the aftermath of civil unrest in February 2014 and has been wanted since January 2015, had what’s known as a Red Notice against his name for “misappropriation, embezzlement or conversion of property by malversation,” the old charges claimed.

In explaining the move to take the former president's name off the list, a source told UNIAN, a pro-Ukrainian website, that it was “the decision of the secretariat of headquarters of Interpol on the basis of Yanukovych’s complaints.”

According to Yanukovych’s lawyer, Joseph Hage Aaronson, Interpol countries no longer had access to data on Ukraine’s former leader and he was no longer a "wanted person." Aaronson said that Interpol decided that elements of the case against Yanukovych have “raised concerns which necessitated a further in-depth study by Interpol of that case,” according to a press release.

Yanukovych press release
The former Ukrainian Prime Minister's lawyer released a statement explaining why Yanukovych had been removed from Interpol's most wanted list. Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP

When the charges were first brought, current Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said that his predecessor's crimes extended to murder, claiming that Yanukovych ordered troops to fire on protestors in Kiev in early 2014. Interpol, however, never considered those complaints.

In the immediate aftermath of social unrest, which eventually led to the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine, Yanukovych fled to the Donbas region of the country, then to Crimea before ending up in Russia, where he is enjoying political protection.

Initial attempts to convince Interpol to place the former Ukrainian leader and his former government ministers on the list of "wanted persons" failed due to a lack of evidence. Advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs Zorian Shkiriak told the Kyiv Post in December 2014 that “they are government criminals, essentially murderers, and for us it also isn’t clear why these people aren’t included on the international wanted list.”