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Melnichenko may testify against former Ukrainian premier

October 24, 2012, 17:54 UTC+3

Earlier, Melnichenko told that he had information about the involvement of Timoshenko and former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko in the murder of businessman Yevgeny Shcherban

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KIEV, October 24 (Itar-Tass) — The leading Ukrainian mass media outlets believe former State Guard Service employee Nikolai Melnichenko, detained by State Security Service agents at the Borispol airport on Wednesday, has arrived in the country to testify against former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.

Earlier, Melnichenko told a news conference in Washington whose text was placed on Facebook that he had information about the involvement of Timoshenko and former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko in the murder of Donetsk businessman and lawmaker Yevgeny Shcherban in 1999.

Melnichenko claimed Timoshenko's family had asked him to testify against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich that he had ordered Shcherban's murder.

Timoshenko's husband Alexander offered him "to provide false evidence against Viktor Yanukovich and testify that he masterminded the murder of Yevgeny Shcherban, and that I had the recordings of these talks between Yanukovich and Kuchma."

"The recordings had to be forged from the original voiceprints in my possession. The proposal was made in Prague in the office of Ukrainian European Perspective public organization.

"Having summed up all the facts I knew about the criminal activity of the Lazarenko-Timoshenko team and their criminal milieu, I decided to turn down Alexander Timoshenko's offer and make this statement," Melnichenko said.

He noted that judging from the conversations he had heard in the office between the then President Leonid Kuchma, Prosecutor General Mikhail Potebenko and other officials, it was Pavel Lazarenko who ordered the murder.

"One of the motives /behind the murder/ is control over the Donestk region, with Pyotr Kirichenko and Yulia Timoshenko paying for it," he stated.

On May 30, 2000, Prosecutor General Mikhail Potebenko opened a criminal case against Lazarenko for masterminding the murder of Shcherban for selfish gains. The case materials were forwarded to the USA where Lazarenko was staying.

First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said this autumn that prosecutors would charge Timoshenko with involvement in the murder of Shcherban. They have enough reasons for bringing these charges against her.

Kuzmin said Shcherban's son insisted on arraigning Lazarenko and Timoshenko for funding the murder of his father.

"He is ready to take his case to all the international bodies, including the European court, for the sake of ascertaining the truth. Several days ago, he stated that he had sent an official letter to the European parliament president, the PACE leadership and the U.S. envoy in Ukraine demanding that they do not interfere with the Ukrainian investigators' probe into case against Timoshenko and Lazarenko over the masterminding and funding the murder of his father," the deputy prosecutor general said.

Lazarenko has been in U.S. prison for money laundering since 1999. His jail term expires on November 1.

Melnichenko, the key "cassette scandal" suspect, was detained by SBU agents together with border guards, on the strength of the resolution by Kiev's Shevchenko district court.

The SBU's main investigation department is conducting a probe into the criminal case against Melnichenko. He is accused of divulging state secret, forgery of documents and exceeding his authority.

He was put on the wanted list in September 2011. The Shevchenko court passed a resolution on selecting arrest as the measure of restrain for him because of violation of recognizance and avoiding the investigators.

Melnichenko was detained in Italy on August 3, 2011, and the Naples court had to consider his extradition. On August 124, he was released from custody. According to Melnichenko's lawyer Nikolai Nedilko, "Italian prosecutors saw no reasons for his extradition to Ukraine."

The Interpol bureau in Ukraine noted that the extradition procedure was continuing.

After the so-called cassette scandal Nikolai Melnichenko fled abroad. He has stayed in the USA recently.

Earlier, Melnichenko published the audio files he had made in the office of former President Leonid Kuchma during his official and unofficial meetings with a number of top politicians. A number of these files were related to the high-profile criminal case over the murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Gongadze disappeared on September 16, 2000. Two weeks later, his decapitated body was found in a forest near Kiev. Alexander Moroz, the then speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, ordered to publish Melnichenko's audio files which allegedly confirmed Kuchma's involvement in the disappearance of the journalist.

The authenticity of the recordings has not been proven up to date, and Kuchma flatly denied his involvement, as did other top officials. In 2011 and 2012, courts of various levels ruled to drop the criminal prosecution of Kuchma.


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