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Former Ukraine leader awaits ruling on US status

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LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (AP) — A former Ukrainian prime minister convicted in the United States of corruption in his homeland has been released from federal prison and turned over to immigration authorities, authorities said Friday.

Pavlo Lazarenko will appear before an immigration judge to determine if he can remain in the country, said Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She declined to say where he is being held.

U.S. Bureau of Prison records show that Lazarenko, 59, was released from federal prison Thursday. He served as Ukraine's prime minister from 1996 to 1997, then fled to the United States and applied for political asylum in 1999.

Prosecutors instead accused Lazarenko of corruption, extortion and a host of other charges alleging he used his position to illegally enrich himself. They claimed jurisdiction because much of the millions of dollars at issue ended up in the United States.

A jury convicted Lazarenko in 2004, and he was sentenced in 2006 to nine years in prison. He was allowed to remain under house arrest until he exhausted his appeals in 2008, when the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to review the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding eight of the 14 charges.

A judge reduced his sentence in 2009.

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