Ukrainian anti-corruption detectives raid top mayor's home

Kiev (AFP) –


Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators on Monday raided the home and office of a powerful mayor at the centre of a politically charged embezzlement probe.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) said the searches were conducted at the premises of Odessa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov and his associates.

The Black Sea city's authorities are being probed for allegedly pocketing money from contracts assigned for repairing a highway and awarding loans that vanished but were meant to help refurbish the local airport.

"Since detectives are also checking the possibility of the Odessa mayor's involvement in these criminal offences, the searches are being held at his home and office," NABU said in a statement.

The raids came nearly a week after the start of the first sustained wave of anti-government protests in Kiev since Ukraine's 2014 pro-EU revolution deposed the Russia-backed regime of Viktor Yanukovych.

The anti-corruption rallies are currently being spearheaded by Mikheil Saakashvili -- the former Georgian president who became the regional governor of Odessa in February 2015.

Saakashvili accused Trukhanov of being one of the region's corruption kingpins but soon became frustrated about his inability to tackle graft in the region and resigned last year. He went on to accuse President Petro Poroshenko of knowing about the corruption and covering it up in order to protect his political friends.

Poroshenko dismisses the charge as groundless and accuses Saakashvili of trying further to destabilise the crisis-torn country.

But the Ukrainian leader appeared to bow to a major protester demand on Friday by promising to set up a special anti-corruption court by the end of the year.

Saakashvili said on Monday that he intended to keep the protests running until deputies return from a recess on November 7 and address other outstanding demands.