Ukraine claims Tymoshenko firm linked to murder

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A top Ukrainian prosecutor claimed that Kiev had firm evidence linking a company once controlled by jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to the 1996 airport slaying of a parliament deputy. The allegations, which aired late Friday on Ukraine’s Inter television, piled still more pressure on Tymoshenko following her conviction and seven-year jailing on abuse of authority charges while in office as prime minister. She has accused President Viktor Yanukovych of prosecuting her as part of a vendetta that followed last year’s bitter national elections she lost.
The case has hurt Ukraine’s hopes of signing a cooperation agreement with the EU. But Western condemnation has done little to help the former Orange Revolution leader and Tymoshenko now faces new charges relating to financial crimes allegedly committed by her and ex-premier Pavlo Lazarenko in the 1990s. The string of firms named in the new case include one Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said had transferred money to the accounts of the killers of deputy Yevhen Shcherban and his wife along with an airport official in 2003.
Lazarenko was jailed in the United States in 2006 on money laundering charges and has already been named as the prime suspect in the deputy’s murder. The prosecutor said the new evidence linking the Somali Enterprises firm that Lazarenko and Tymoshenko were believed to have jointly controlled in the 1990s to the murder currently remained in the United States.
“All of this has been proven. With documents. There is no doubt about that,” said the prosecutor. “We would like some help from the Americans in this matter. We have been trying to question Lazarenko for the past year on various issues including this one,” Kuzmin said. “But we have been unable to travel to the United States to interrogate these people.”
A lawmakers in Tymoshenko’s parliamentary part told Moscow Echo radio that the 1996 murder investigation has long concluded and could hardly produce new leads at this stage. “What Kuzmin is saying is pure fantasy,” parliament deputy Serhiy Vlasenko told the Moscow radio station.