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Ukrainian ag minister allegedly targeted by North Dakota farmer has resigned

Reuters reports that Roman Leshchenko has resigned as Ukraine's agriculture minister on Thursday. Senior lawmaker Mykola Solskyi later told Reuters that he had accepted an offer to replace Leshchenko as minister.

A man in light-colored blue jeans, a dark-colored t-shirt, a leather jacket and a Minnesota Twins cap stands in front of water.
Kurt Groszhans' family says he has a passion for farming and for Ukraine, where he has been detained and accused of attempting to have a high ranking official assassinated.
Contributed / Groszhans family

The Ukrainian official who a North Dakota farmer is alleged to have plotted to have assassinated has resigned from his post as ag minister.

Reuters reports Roman Leshchenko resigned on Thursday , a month after Russia launched a war that has affected spring crop sowing and forced one the world’s largest grain producers to halt the export of some farm products. An aide confirmed the resignation but gave no reason.

Senior lawmaker Mykola Solskyi later told Reuters that he had accepted an offer to replace Leshchenko as minister. Solskyi is widely seen as an important figure behind reforms that opened the land market in Ukraine last year, lifting a longstanding ban on the sale of farmland.

Kurt Groszhans of Ashley, North Dakota, remains jailed in Ukraine on allegations that he plotted to have Leshchenko killed . According to Ukrainian media reports, Groszhans and a Ukrainian woman named Olena Bohach were placed in pre-trial detention in November in the case.

Groszhans has a farm company in Ukraine in which Leshchenko formerly was a farm manager. Groszhans has accused Leshchenko of embezzling $430,000 from him before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed him to the first of several government posts. Leshchenko claims to have paid all debts to Groszhans.

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Ukrainian officials claim Groszhans paid a person $20,000 to kill Leshchenko after Groszhans returned to the U.S. Groszhans was arrested before his planned returned trip and has remained in custody.

North Dakota's Congressional delegation has requested Groszhans' release from the Kyiv detention cente r and for his removal from Ukraine based on humanitarian grounds, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., told The Forum earlier this month.

A request for Groszhans' release is now in front of Ukraine's Prosecutor General Office, the country's agency in charge of prosecuting crimes and conducting pre-trial investigations, and this office has the ability to grant Groszhans' release, Hoeven said.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., visited Groszhans during a trip to Kyiv in January. He talked about the case in an interview on Fox Business earlier this week.

“I have a farmer from Ashley, North Dakota, Kurt Groszhans who farms in Ukraine. He’s in a Ukrainian jail now, having been charged, but never had a hearing or trial. He’s not been convicted of anything. And in fact, the charges themselves come under a cloud of corruption quite honestly, that's very concerning to me and to all of us. We’re trying to get him out — have been now for a couple of months. I visited him in jail a couple of months ago. Frankly, my patience with the Ukrainian government is getting pretty thin. I think it's time to let him out,” he said.

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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