The international police organization Interpol voted Wednesday to appoint South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang as president — rejecting a veteran Russian security services official and ally of Vladimir Putin, who was favorite to win.
Alexander Prokopchuk candidacy was strongly opposed by the U.S. and much of Europe, who lobbied Interpol’s 194 members against the appointment over fears the Kremlin would use the position to target Moscow’s political enemies.
In the end, 101 countries voted for Kim with just 61 voting for Prokopchuk at the agency’s general assembly in Dubai. Kim has served as acting Interpol president since October, following the dismissal of the former chief Meng Hongwei.
Prokopchuk led Russia’s Interpol bureau, aiding Putin in his abuse of the agency’s red notice system, which identifies suspects pursued by other countries, effectively putting them on the world’s “most-wanted” list.
Critics warned that Prokopchuk’s election would allow Putin to further manipulate that system to its advantage.
“Common sense has prevailed in a dark world,” Bill Browder, a longtime critic of Putin, told AP. “This is a real humiliation for Putin, who thought he’d get away with it.”
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, another Kremlin critic who had campaigned to prevent Prokopchuk’s elevation, said on Twitter that “reason triumphed,” adding “this is our common victory.”
Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov posted a picture of himself with Kim minutes after the vote. A caption read: “The Russian candidate has been rejected. This battle is won.”
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators published a letter Monday sent to President Donald Trump asking him to try to sway Interpol members to prevent Prokopchuk’s election.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday the Kremlin “regrets” Prokopchuk lost, but said Moscow “has no reason to dispute the results.”
Peskov said the Kremlin was sad to see that the election was held in “an environment of unprecedented pressure.” Ahead of the vote, Peskov described the U.S. senator’s letter as “election meddling.”
Prokopchuk, who acts as Interpol’s vice president, will retain his position as a general at the Russian Interior Ministry and continue to “focus on advancing the stature of Interpol in the international police community and making its work more effective,” Irina Volk, a spokeswoman for the Russian interior ministry, told the Interfax news agency.
Cover image: Alexander Prokopchuk, Russian candidate to head Interpol, during a ceremony to open a monument to police in Bangkok, Thailand in this December 2015 handout. (Russian Interior Ministry/Handout via Reuters)