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A policeman places handcuffs on Serhiy Bochkovsky, chairman of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service, during a meeting of the government in Kiev on March 25, 2015.

REUTERS

Ukrainian police officers charged into a televised government meeting Wednesday and detained two top officials on suspicion of extorting bribes.

Police snapped handcuffs onto emergency services chief Serhiy Bochkovsky and his deputy and calmly marched the pair out of the Cabinet meeting.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Bochkovsky and his deputy, Vasiliy Stoyetsky, were suspected of extorting bribes from fuel suppliers.

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"This was not a show, this was not theatre," Avakov said. "We decided it was necessary to do it this way, during the cabinet meeting, as inoculation, as a preventative measure against corrupt officials, of whom we unfortunately have many."

Avakov said the offices of the emergency services were being raided as part of investigations.

The government in Ukraine has vowed to take firm action to stamp out rampant corruption and the highly public nature of the detentions appeared designed to convey the impression that anti-graft measures are picking up pace.

Ukraine's economy, already hamstrung by crippling bureaucracy and corruption, has been further burdened by a war in the east with Russian-backed separatists.

The government has successfully negotiated a $17.5-billion credit program with the International Monetary Fund against the promise of deep and exhaustive reforms.

Speaking after Bochkovsky and Stoyetsky's detention, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he would ask Western governments to assist in tracking down any funds salted away in foreign accounts by the officials.

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