Austrian anti-corruption prosecutors said Wednesday they were investigating Ukraine's former central bank chief for alleged breach of trust and money laundering, after he sought asylum claiming "political persecution".

A key player in efforts to ensure Ukraine's financial and economic stability following Russia's invasion of the country, Kyrylo Shevchenko stepped down as head of the bank in October 2022 and sought asylum in Austria.

But a representative of the Austrian public prosecutor's office told AFP on Wednesday: "We are conducting an investigation into breach of public trust and money laundering" against Shevchenko, confirming Austrian media reports.

Shevchenko, 51, said on Facebook that he was pressured by President Volodymyr Zelensky to print money to prop up the local currency after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

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He says his refusal to do so prompted his arrest on "trumped-up" charges of embezzlement.

He announced he was stepping down in October 2022 for health reasons after heading Ukraine's central bank for two years.

According to Austrian newspaper Der Standard, Vienna rejected an extradition request by Kyiv due to the ongoing war.

Appointed in 2020 after his predecessor resigned citing political pressure, Shevchenko was considered to be Zelensky's preferred candidate.  

Any changes at the head of the central bank are closely followed by Ukraine's western allies, whose financial support has been key to propping up the country's economy even before the war.

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