KIEV, January 22 (RIA Novosti) - The 1996 killing of Ukrainian businessman and lawmaker Yevhen Shcherban was caused by a conflict of interests in the country’s natural gas market, the Prosecutor General’s Office said on Tuesday.
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 Friday, Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said the killing was ordered by jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and another former premier, Pavlo Lazarenko.
On Tuesday, the Kommersant-Ukraina newspaper published excerpts from the Prosecutor General’s Office statement implicating Tymoshenko in the crime.
According to the document, 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.”
The Prosecutor General’s Office statement alleges Tymoshenko and Lazarenko paid a total of $2.82 million for Shcherban’s killing.
Hundreds of Tymoshenko’s supporters formed a “human chain” on Tuesday on a bridge across the River Dnepr in Kiev holding banners saying “Freedom to Yulia! Freedom to Ukraine!” They also held Ukrainian national flags and the flags of the opposition Batkyvshchyna party.
Tymoshenko, who is currently serving a seven-year jail term for abusing her authority by signing a controversial gas deal with Russia in 2009, was officially notified by investigators on Friday that she is a suspect in the Shcherban case.