KIEV, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Eleven days after Ukraine’s ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko was officially notified of being a suspect in a lawmaker’s murder, her defense team still has no access to materials in the Evgeny Shcherban case, a lawyer said on Tuesday.
“It’s [January] 29th, or the 11th day [since Tymoshenko received the official notification of being a suspect], but the defense team still has no access to the case,” said Oleksandr Plakhontyuk, a member of Tymoshenko's defense team.
Another lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, said that the case’s only eyewitness, Peter Kirichenko, might have been pressured by the investigators.
“By analyzing this document [the notification of being a suspect] we’ve made a conclusion that the only living eyewitness in this case is Kirichenko,” Vlasenko said, adding that Kirichenko’s wife had to spend two months in custody upon her arrival in Ukraine.
“This is when Kirichenko suddenly changed his testimony,” he said.
According to the FBI's website, Kirichenko was also an eyewitness in the US trial for money laundering and extortion of another suspect in the Shcherban case, former Ukrainian prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko. The former premier’s nine-year sentence, which he served at a US prison, expired last November.
Evgeny Shcherban, a Supreme Rada lawmaker who also headed Ukraine’s Aton financial corporation, was shot dead along with his wife at an airport in eastern Ukraine in November 1996.
On January 18, Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said the killing was ordered by Tymoshenko and Lazarenko, who paid a total of $2.82 million for the murder.
According to excerpts from the Prosecutor General’s Office statement implicating Tymoshenko in the crime, published by the Kommersant-Ukraina newspaper, Shcherban stood in the way of a plan to make Tymoshenko-led United Energy Systems of Ukraine the sole gas trader in the industrial Donetsk Region. Shcherban’s position “cut into UES’s profits,” and so in early 1996 Yulia Tymoshenko and Pavlo Lazarenko “jointly decided to have him killed.”