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KIEV, October 14 (Itar-Tass) —— The number two in the political party of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko believes authorities had launched another criminal case against her in order to deny any chance of release.
“I believe they want to be on the safe side as the court of appeals or the European Court will definitely cancel the disgraceful verdict related to the gas case. The new case is instituted to deny Yulia Vladimirovna a chance to be released from prison,” Alexander Turchinov told a press conference on Thursday.
Only two days after Timoshenko was sentenced to seven years for abuse of office in signing a gas deal with Russia, the Ukrainian security service (SBU) reported a new criminal probe against her and another former prime minister, Pavel Lazarenko, related to a US$ 405-million debt of a commercial company which was paid from the state budget.
Head of the SBU investigative department Ivan Derevyanko said Timoshenko “conspired” with Lazarenko to pay the debt of the Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine to the Russian defense ministry with budget funds. The charge relates to events which took place 15 years ago when Timoshenko headed the energy company which imported the Russian gas for re-sale in Ukraine. Lazarenko was the prime minister in 1996 and is currently serving a prison sentence in the United States for money laundering and other offences.
However Turchinov said “if such a debt really existed Russia would not wait for 15 years to claim it” and added the limitation period had anyway expired.
“The authorities instituted a new charge against Timoshenko because of fears they might have to release her,” he said.
But Derevyanko denied claims the limitation period had expired. “In this case it lasts up to 2019,” he said.
He said the Russian defense ministry claimed the debt in a letter that arrived in June. The government checked the claim and submitted the materials to the SBU. “Investigation exposed sufficient evidence to bring new charges,” he said adding Timoshenko may face from seven to twelve years in jail if found guilty.