Thu, Jun 21, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Ukraine’s Tymoshenko to face murder charge

AFP, KIEV

The legal problems of Ukraine’s jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko mounted on Tuesday after a top prosecutor said he was planning to charge her over the murder of a lawmaker in 1996.

Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said in a newspaper interview the only obstacle was Tymoshenko’s hospitalization for severe back pain.

Ukrainian member of parliament Yevgen Shcherban was gunned down along with his wife at Donetsk airport in 1996 in a contract killing the Ukrainian legal authorities have linked to former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is a former Tymoshenko ally.

“We have enough proof confirming Tymoshenko’s implication in this murder and we are intending to present her with charges,” Kuzmin told the Ukrainian edition of Kommersant in comments published on Monday.

Shcherban had been in -conflict with Tymoshenko, who at the time headed a major gas utility, United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), that had sought to persuade businesses in his Donetsk region to buy its energy resources, Kuzmin said.

Lazarenko was convicted by a court in the US of corruption and is currently serving a sentence at a Californian jail.

However, Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party on Tuesday dismissed Kuzmin’s comments as “hysteria.”

“They show that the repressive system is focusing on executing the orders of [Ukranian] President Viktor Yanukovych, however absurd they are,” party spokeswoman Natalya Lysova said.

Tymoshenko is already serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power while in office, which she says was ordered by Yanukovych.

Kuzmin said her ill health was impeding the authorities from presenting the murder charges and investigators could not carry out the necessary interrogation while she was ill.

He alleged that the notorious Kushnir criminal gang that operated in Ukraine in the 1990s “carried out the orders of Lazarenko in the interests of Tymoshenko.”

“The investigation has established that the gang took part in 25 murders and attempted murders,” he added, refusing to say if Tymoshenko might be accused over all of those crimes.

In addition to her conviction for abuse of power, Tymoshenko has also been charged with tax fraud and embezzlement while she headed UESU, although her trial has yet to get properly underway because of her ill health.

The prisons service announced on Tuesday that she had been summoned to appear in court on Monday and said that a health ministry commission had recommended that “comfortable conditions” be arranged for her at the courthouse.

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