But as the week progressed, it was still unclear whether he would remain in his post. Lawmakers delayed a vote on his resignation until they received official information from the German authorities.
Lutsenko was traveling to Seoul, South Korea, on May 4 when he and his adult son were detained following an altercation with police after they were refused permission to fly. In a statement on May 12, Lutsenko said he had been denied boarding because airline staff suspected he was drunk, and that he had intervened after his 19-year-old son, who was recovering from surgery, had been arrested.
The opposition Party of Regions demanded the minister’s resignation, and hung banners in parliament reading, “Yura – sober up” and “Drunken minister – a disgrace to the country.” But then they inexplicably blocked the work of parliament for two days running, making a vote impossible. The coalition parties have called for a temporary parliamentary investigative committee to be set up before a vote on his resignation is taken.
German media reported that Lutsenko and his son were refused permission to board the flight from Frankfurt after airline employees noticed they were drunk. The police were called when the pair flew into a rage, shouting obscenities and throwing their cell phones. Frankfurt police said that four officers suffered mild injuries in the scuffle. German weekly magazine Focus cited a police report saying that Lutsenko called the police officers “Nazi swine” during the altercation.
“I have worked as a police officer for many years, but I have never seen such aggressive behavior by passengers during the years of my service,” Frankfurt police spokesman Jurgen Linker told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on May 13. “The issue concerns not only resistance to law enforcement agencies, but also dangerous bodily injuries and an infringement of dignity.”
The minister and his son, who was handcuffed, were then taken to the airport’s police station, where a test showed that the latter had a blood alcohol level of 0.3 percent (0.05 percent is the legal limit for drivers in Germany), according to Bild, Germany’s bestselling tabloid. The police later said they could not confirm this information.
Lutsenko, meanwhile, accused German media of defamation and said he intended to sue Bild. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry initially denied the reports and claimed that Lutsenko’s party was prevented from boarding because they were late for the flight. But in his statement, the minister confirmed he was not allowed to board because staff believed him to be drunk. He said he had become enraged after his son was “seized by the neck,” arrested and handcuffed, and that his own offer to take an alcohol test had been refused.
Lutsenko, who said he only drank a single beer that day, also claimed that the incident ended with an apology from the regional police chief. But the German local authorities refuted this claim.
The prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt confirmed that they had received documents from the police concerning Lutsenko’s case and passed them on to the Ukrainian consul general in Frankfurt. “We are currently looking into whether Lutsenko has immunity or not, and consequently whether we can follow it up,” Doris Moller-Scheu, the prosecutor’s spokeswoman, told the Kyiv Post. She declined to reveal the details of the police reports because of the ongoing investigation.
In his letter of resignation, Lutsenko said he fell victim to a “dirty” campaign against him by political opponents. “I have become the victim of a banal situation blown up into a political scandal because of domestic squabbles inside Ukraine,” he said.
He accused the Presidential Secretariat and the opposition of seeking to “destabilize” the work of the Interior Ministry. President Victor Yushchenko said on May 12 that he considered Lutsenko’s resignation a “logical step.”
But Prime Minister Tymoshenko appeared to side with Lutsenko, saying on May 13 that she doubted that his son could have been drinking given the prescription drugs he was taking. “I don’t want to defend the minister’s behavior, but at the same time I believe that every father should defend his child.” She added that the “wave of political PR” around the incident was “amoral.”
Lutsenko is head of the People’s Self-Defense faction, which holds 28 seats in parliament. Previously an ally of Yushchenko, he has moved closer to the president’s rival, Tymoshenko.
Analysts said that the governing coalition is unlikely to vote to accept Lutsenko’s resignation. “For the time being, the vote will be postponed and attention will decrease,” said Yury Yakymenko, an analyst at the Razumkov Center think tank.
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