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Probe into former Ukrainian premier's involvement in lawmaker's murder nearing completion

July 15, 2013, 17:12 UTC+3

Law-enforcers discarded political motivation behind the murder and focused on a criminal version

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KIEV, July 15 (Itar-Tass) - The pre-trial investigation into the murder of prominent businessman, Ukrainian lawmaker Yevgeny Shcherban is nearing completion, Ukrainian prosecutors said on Monday reminding that former Prime Ministers Yulia Timoshenko and Pavel Lazarenko are suspected of masterminding the crime.

"Ninety percent of work have been completed. The only delay is our waiting for fulfilment of our instructions and requests for legal assistance. We're waiting for certain evidence which will dot all i's. The case then will be handed over to lawyers and the injured parties for reading, and we'll be ready to refer it to the court," the Ukrainian mass media cited Yevgeny Pushkar, head of the department for the investigation of special cases under the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office as saying on Monday. When asked what verdict might be passed for Timoshenko, Pushkar said "it's up to the court to decide."

Earlier, he told reporters that Ukraine had asked other countries for legal assistance in the Shcherban case.

In May, First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin stated that the testimony of Pyotr Kirichenko /former advisor to Pavel Lazarenko/, as well as other data, allow the PGO to refer the case to the court and accuse Yulia Timoshenko of involvement in the crime.

"Kirichenko is the key suspect in the case in which a U.S. court sentenced Lazarenko to ten years in jail. He gave the same testimony to the Ukrainian court in the case over the murder of Yevgeny Shcherban. The two testimonies are equal by their evidence both at the U.S. and Ukrainian court. I have no doubts that he's telling the truth," Kuzmin said.

Kirichenko's testimony is supported by other data. "The body of evidence gives us the opportunity to send the case to the court and accuse Timoshenko of the murder of the Ukrainian lawmaker," Kuzmin underlined.

On May 15, Lazarenko's aide Pyotr Kirichenko said during a video link from the USA that Timoshenko and Lazarenko had masterminded the hit.

Law-enforcers discarded political motivation behind the murder and focused on a criminal version. In April 2003, the appeals court of the Lugansk region sentenced Shcherban's killers to life imprisonment. Vadim Bolotsky was given life with confiscation of property. The defendants were members of a criminal group that operated in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Leader of the gang Yevgeny Kushnir died in a Donetsk remand prison.

In April, Sherban's son, regional legislator Ruslan Shcherban said he had passed documents to the PGO on possible involvement of Timoshenko and Lazarenko in his father's murder.

Investigators said Lazarenko had lobbied the government resolution that appointed one wholesale natural gas supply for each region and committed all companies to purchase fuel from that company at the price it set. In the Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk region, this supplier was Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine /UESU/ headed by Yulia Timoshenko.

"The UESU president regularly transferred 50 percent of profit from the company's commercial activity to the bank accounts designated by Lazarenko for protection at the state level, lobbying and removing obstacles in the operation of the company," an investigator said.

Ukrainian prosecutors claim that Shcherban was one of such obstacles in the way of implementing this plan. He initiated the resolution by the Donetsk region governor which authorized the Donbass Industrial Union, Donetsk, not the UESU, to conclude such contracts. "This sparked conflicts between Lazarenko, Timoshenko and Shcherban, because "the companies the latter controlled flatly refused to work with the UESU on its conditions."

"Since Timoshenko and Lazarenko could be directly involved in the murder of Yevgeny Shcherban, they decided to put out a contract to kill Shcherban with other persons," PGO said.

Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said Timoshenko and Lazarenko had paid 2.8 million dollars for the murder of Shcherban.

Shcherban was gunned down at the Donetsk airport on November 3, 1996 after his plane arrived from Moscow. The criminals fled the scene in a car. Shcherban, his wife, a mechanic and a flight engineer died of gunshot wounds.

Timoshenko is serving a 7-year sentence at the Kachanovskaya penitentiary in the town of Kharkov, for exceeding her authority when signing the gas agreement with Russia in 2009. She has been in a Kharkov hospital in the recent months.

Lazarenko spent more than a decade in U.S. prison for financial fraud. He was set free on November 1, 2012. Lazarenko asked San Francisco immigration authorities to grant him a temporary resident visa.

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