Serbia to revoke Ukrainian billionaire's passport

AP News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2014 11:19 AM

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia will revoke the citizenship it granted to Ukrainian businessman Sergei Kurchenko, who is on a European Union sanctions list and wanted in his country on embezzlement charges, officials said Friday.

The Belgrade Blic daily said the 29-year-old billionaire media mogul and gas magnate was given a Serbian passport after an urgent immigration procedure, apparently for a promise to invest millions in Serbia's ailing economy.

However, after the report became public, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's office said "proceedings have been initiated to revoke the citizenship" because it could complicate Serbia's accession negotiations with the 28-nation EU.

Serbia is playing a delicate balancing act between its traditional Slavic ally Russia and the EU. Although it says it respects Ukrainian territorial integrity, which is being jeopardized by a pro-Russian rebellion, Serbia has refused to impose EU-like sanctions against Russia for Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

Ukrainian prosecutors in March issued an arrest warrant for Kurchenko, who has denied widespread accusations that he was part of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's once-powerful inner circle. Ukraine's authorities have accused Kurchenko of allegedly embezzling about $1 billion from state coffers.

Yanukovych was ousted in February after months of anti-government protests and Kurchenko left Ukraine that same month. In March, the EU put Kurchenko on its sanctions list.

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Associated Press writer Jovana Gec contributed to this report.