Alexander Prokopchuk, a veteran of the Russian interior ministry, had been seen as the favourite to be elected president today. Instead, the 194 delegates at Interpols general assembly in Dubai chose Kim Jong-yang, from South Korea. He had been acting president since the previous head of the global police co-operation body was detained in China over bribery allegations.
Todays result came after Britain and the United States led an eleventh-hour attempt to stop Mr Prokopchuk, an alleged former KGB agent, from winning the position.
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But Prokopchuk also targeted others, such as Petr Silaev, a Russian environmentalist living in Finland, and Eerik Kross, a Russia-critical Estonian politician, on charges which Interpol ultimately rejected, prior to moving to his vice-president post at Interpols HQ in Lyon, France.
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The White House and its European partners had lobbied against Alexander Prokopchuks attempts to be named the next president of the international police body, saying his election would lead to further Russian abuses of Interpols red notice system to go after political opponents.
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Interpols 94 member states chose Kim at a meeting of their annual congress in Dubai. He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor Meng Hongwei who went missing in his native China in September. Beijing later said Meng resigned after being charged with accepting bribes.
Critics say that Prokopchuk oversaw a policy of systematically targeting critics and dissidents during his time in charge of the Russian office of Interpol. The Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov, tweeted from the conference room where the vote was held, saying: The Russian candidate has been rejected. This battle is won!
On Tuesday, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, threw his weight behind Kim, who is the acting president of the global police body. We encourage all nations and organisations that are part of Interpol and that respect the rule of law to choose a leader with integrity. We believe Mr Kim will be just that, Pompeo told reporters.
The general assembly of Interpol, which facilitates international police cooperation, is under way in Dubai and will vote on a new president on Wednesday. Alexander Prokopchuk, who was appointed to lead the Russian bureau of Interpol in 2011 and is currently a vice-president of the organisation, is considered to be the leading candidate. Critics say that he oversaw a policy of systematically targeting critics and dissidents during his time in charge of the Russian office of Interpol.
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Kim had been serving as Interpols acting president since Meng resigned and was a vice-president representing Asia. Our world is now facing unprecedented changes which present huge challenges to public security and safety, he said after he was elected. To overcome them, we need a clear vision: we need to build a bridge to the future.
The 57-year-old was previously the chief of police in South Koreas most populous province, and is a high-profile proponent of the South Korean governments push to export its policing strategies, known as the K-cop wave.
There is probably no more inappropriate person than this person and theres no more inappropriate country to have any kind of leadership position at Interpol than Russia, he said at a press conference in London.
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Marina Litvinenko, the widow of poisoned dissident Alexander Litvinenko, told the BBCs Newsnight programme on Tuesday night that having a Russian as president of Interpol would lead to abuse of the red notice system. Everybody who is asking for political asylum here in the UK now will not feel safe at all, she said.
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British officials made it clear that they were backing Kim, and expressed alarm at the prospect of Prokopchuk taking over. Lithuanias parliament voted unanimously on Tuesday to consider leaving Interpol if Prokopchuk had won the vote.
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Interpols president chairs its general assembly while day-to-day operations are handled by the organisations secretary general, Jürgen Stock.