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KIEV, May 31 (Itar-Tass) —— Former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, who is the leader of the opposition Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party, has the status of witness in the case of Ukrainian MP Yevgeny Shcherban’s assassination in 1996, Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said.
“Timoshenko is a witness and the investigation continues. We are working to identify the masterminds of this crime,” he said on Wednesday, May 30.
The prosecutor said, “We understand that it was a contract murder.”
The case has been investigated for 17 years. “During this time new circumstances and details have become known and they need to be checked and verified,” he added.
Yevgeny Shcherban and his wife were shot dead at Donetsk's airport in 1996.
His son, Ruslan Shcherban, gave the Prosecutor General's Office documents claiming that Timoshenko and former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko might have been reportedly involved in the killing of his father.
He claims that the assassins were paid from bank accounts controlled by Timoshenko and Lazarenko.
Ruslan Shcherban said he is not pursuing any political goals and has not received any special assignments or offers from the ruling Party of Regions.
Lazarenko is serving a prison term in the United States for financial fraud. His term ends this autumn.
However Batkivshchina (Fatherland) deputy leader Alexander Turchinov said Shchrban’[s son Ruslan, who is a member of the Donetsk Regional Council, had given false testimony to the Prosecutor General's Office, alleging that Timoshenko was involved in the killing of his father.
“At the dictation of the Prosecutor General's Office, the top leadership of the country and his party, he [Ruslan Shcherban] is beginning to get the name of Yulia Timoshenko involved in this false testimony, thus fulfilling a political order,” Turchinov said earlier.
He believes that the authorities are trying to concoct a new case against Timoshenko in order to discredit her ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in October 2012.
At the same time, one of the Kiev-based newspapers quoted a source on May 30 as saying that the Prosecutor General’s Office is ready to charge Timoshenko with having masterminded Shcherban’s killing but cannot do so because the ex-prime minister’s illness.
Timoshenko is serving her prison term in a penal colony in the eastern Kharkov region and is facing new charges in a second criminal case.
On October 20, 2011, the Prosecutor General's Office cancelled the decision to close the criminal case against Timoshenko in which she was charged with embezzlement of more than 25 million hryvnia (more than 10 million U.S. dollars at the exchange rate of 1995-1997, when Timoshenko headed the Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine) and tax evasion in the amount of more than 20 million hryvnia.
On October 11, 2011, Kiev's Pechersky District Court sentenced Yulia Timoshenko to seven years in prison.