Igor Markov. Dissident or criminal?

For most of the foreign press, he is a dissident and an opponent to the government of Kiev. For Ukrainian authorities he is a most wanted on the Interpol list. For the committee for salvation of Ukraine set up in Moscow he is a victim of political persecution. Who is Igor Markov?

He’s not on the international wanted list published by Interpol. Nor there is the trace of a red notice issued against him. The international organization of police refused to confirm the existence of a measure against Igor Markov. However, there is no reason to doubt that the Italian police, who arrested Markov on August 12, did not act on the basis of an international mandate. What is certain is that the Ukrainian politician is on the wanted list of the Ministry of Interior of Kiev. Is it enough to make him an international criminal?

A controversial figure

Markov is a controversial figure at home since before Euromaidan and the ousting of Yanukovych. Against him had been opened proceedings in 2007 for assaulting some political opponents during a demonstration in Odessa. The case was almost immediately put to sleep mode, also thanks to parliamentary immunity. According to his political opponents, however, he is behind numerous cases of violent clashes between activists of the then opposition and titushky, the paid thugs used to spoil unwanted demostrations.

Today Markov is self-exiled in Russia along with several pieces of the old establishment. Before being arrested in Italy, he travelled to other European countries with no problems. And even when he landed at Milan he was free to cross the border, go to Monte Carlo and back to Italy. Markov used the argument to demonstrate the political motivation behind his arrest, which would be linked to his recent participation in the so-called Committee for Salvation of Ukraine, set up in Moscow by former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov. The objection, however, would not prove much if a red notice has been issued against him. This is the closest thing to an international arrest warrant. It is an alert to the general police all over the world against a person wanted in a member country, but that does not oblige the other police to arrest him. Police from other countries could well have legitimately decided not to follow the red notice.

Red notice

For western newspapers, Markov is a dissident, an opponent to the government in Kiev. But the definition is likely to spoil the story. Markov took shelter in Russia in the aftermath of the Euromaidan revolution, most likely to avoid responding to the desire of justicialism of Ukrainians, and to run his rich business in Russia closer. A few weeks ago, then, the choice of form this sort of opposition government in exile in Moscow along with Azarov. After all, his condition suits the narrative of the pro-Russian propaganda depicting the government in Kiev as “nazi junta”. A rhetoric that has a certain appeal also in Europe, and that could well be used to transform Markov into dissident persecuted by a totalitarian regime.

Moreover, Markov immediately said to fear for his safety in case of extradition, and the long string of mysterious suicides in Ukraine could be a good reason.

On the other hand, the existence of a red notice would not be in itself sufficient to dispel the doubts of a political persecution. The point is that a red notice requires no evidence: all you have to do is assert that a valid warrant exists. It is true that it is then up to Interpol to assess the appropriateness of the request and decide whether to issue a Red Notice, but it is a rather bland check: in the world there is a request for a Red Notice about one every hour. At that rate, it’s impossible for Interpol to be sure that it’s not pursuing political enemies. Most Red Notice requests are granted in hours, the process is electronic. Interpol must trust of its members. But there are several examples of a misuse of the instrument.

The case has all the ingredients of an international intrigue, but is thankfully matter of the judicial system, that is compelled to examine it in a transparent way, according to procedures. The Ukrainian authorities now have 40 days to present the request for extradition. It will be interesting to see the motivation.


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