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Ukraine minister accused of being drunk offers to resign

Kiev — Ukraine’s interior minister on Tuesday offered to resign after being stopped from boarding a flight in Germany when crewmembers accused him of being drunk.

Tendering his resignation, Yuri Lutsenko said he only drank a glass of beer and vehemently denied all the accusations against him, which he said had been provoked by a "dirty campaign" against him in Ukraine’s fractious political scene.

"I address myself to the prime minister and president of the parliament asking them to consider my resignation at today’s session," Yuri Lutsenko told reporters.

German police said last week that a Lufthansa plane crew had refused to let Lutsenko and his 19-year-old son board a Frankfurt-Seoul flight over their drunken behaviour.

Germany’s weekly Focus magazine, citing a police report, also alleged that the minister had called police "Nazi Swine" while causing injuries to four airport personnel.

The report — prepared for the German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble — said Lutsenko had hurled "fascist and racist" insults and punches at airport staff involved in the incident.

Denying the charges, Lutsenko instead explained his offer to retire from office Tuesday saying the political scandal provoked in Ukraine by the accusations had impaired his ability to do his job.

He insisted he drank only one glass of beer while lunching with his son at the Frankfurt airport ahead of the flight, and countered that airline personnel had refused to carry out a breathalyser test to confirm their suspicions.

"After a protracted verbal argument," Lutsenko said, the police stepped in and roughly seized his son by the neck, where he had recently been operated on.

"In that situation, I could not keep my cool," the minister said. "First I told them my son had recently been operated on, but when that didn’t help, I tried to stop the violence against my son. Then, I was handcuffed as well."

He claimed to have received an apology from the chief of police in the region and faulted "absolutely false" coverage by the media for the scandal that erupted around the incident.

"This dirty campaign against my son and I continues, and I perfectly understand that it is difficult to keep peaceably carrying out my functions as the interior minister," Lutsenko said.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko said last week he was "worried" by the incident and ordered investigation into what happened.

Lutsenko is seen as a foe of Yushchenko but an ally of the president’s great political rival and nemesis, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The country’s largest opposition party, the Party of Regions, has called for Lutsenko’s resignation over the scandal.

The interior minister said the president had "desired for a long time to destabilize the interior ministry’s activity".

Lutsenko — a prominent figure in the 2004 Orange Revolution that placed the country’s current leadership in power — was already at the centre of controversy in January 2008 when he fought with the mayor of Kiev after a meeting at the presidency.

Anya Tsukanova/AFP/Expatica