PARIS (AP) — Interpol is studying a request by Ukrainian authorities to issue an alert for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych for abuse of power and murder, the international police organization said Thursday.
A statement by the Lyon-based organization said it received a request Wednesday from Ukrainian authorities to issue a "Red Notice," which informs Interpol's 190-member countries that an arrest warrant has been issued. A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant.
The request "is being assessed" to see if it is in line with Interpol's constitution and rules, the statement said.
Yanukovych fled to Russia after disturbances in which more than 80 people were killed in Kiev, but insists he remains president. Ukraine risks division after Russian troops took over Crimea. Lawmakers said Thursday they want to join Russia and would put the question to a vote in 10 days by Crimeans — 60 percent of whom are ethnic Russians.
Issuing an Interpol Red Notice is a way to inform member countries that a person is wanted in his home country, and seeks the location and arrest and eventual extradition. Details of a valid arrest warrant by Ukraine are among the things needed to trigger a Red Notice alert for Yanukovych. The newly installed government in Kiev blames the protest deaths on Yanukovych.
Interpol said its legal department is trying to ensure that the request is in conformity with a series of rules it must abide by.
Even if a Red Notice is issued to put member countries on alert, there are some potential stumbling blocks. The right to arrest remains squarely in the hands of national authorities where the person being sought is located. If Yanukovych remains in Russia, then it would be up to Russia to arrest him. No member country is obliged to make the arrest.
Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the ouster of Yanukovych as an "unconstitutional coup and armed seizure of power."