By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Uzhhorod, Ukraine

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has condemned her trial as politically motivated.

UZHHOROD, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– There is anger in western Ukraine over plans to prosecute jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for her alleged involvement in a contract killing of a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker and businessman.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin says investigators are looking into claims that money of the 50-year-old opposition leader was used to assassinate legislator Yevhen Shcherban and his wife in 1996.

Kuzim said Tymoshenko could be involved in the crime, along with Pavlo Lazarenko, who was prime minister at the time and has since been jailed in the United States for fraud and money laundering.

“We have a transcript of a witness being questioned in the United States where the witness states directly that the murder of Shcherban was paid for from Lazarenko and Tymoshenko’s accounts,” Kuzmin added in published remarks.

Tymoshenko’s spokeswoman Natalya Lisova dismissed the allegation, saying: “This is absurd. The government desire to get rid of political opposition has crossed all limits.”


Tymoshenko was already sentenced to seven years in jail last month after being found guilty of violating legal procedures while approving a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009.

She has appealed the ruling, but that process could take months, trial observers said.

The latest murder charge comes on top of separate investigations into other alleged wrongdoings while in office and earlier as boss of an energy firm in the 1990s.

But in the western border town of Uzhhorod several residents call the murder charge against Tymoshenko “selective anger” by frustrated authorities.

Yulia Tymoshenko with trade-mark tiger pictures have all but disappeared in Uzzhorod.

Western Ukraine was Tymoshenko’s political stronghold. Yet, even a supporter of her political arch rival President Viktor Yanukovich has his doubts. “Ofcourse they have to punish crimes but not only those of Tymoshenko,” said 56-year-old Ivan Shangin, director of a sport school in Uzzhorod. “I voted for Yanukovich…But I think these allegations against Tymoshenko have been prompted by her success and popularity as opposition leader.”


Youth worker Eduard Zales, 25, shares that opinion. “There is not enough evidence for the murder charge. Those who prosecute Tymoshenko are themselves criminals.”

Yet, Tymoshenko posters, including a huge photo of the stunning blond with a white tiger, have all but disappeared in downtown Uzzhorod.

At least some of the town’s 120,000 residents still remembering the Soviet-era appear afraid when asked about Tymoshenko. They realize that pro-Russian President Yanukovich is firmly in power.

He has denied wrongdoing saying Tymoshenko’s trial is not politically motivated. But that doesn’t convince residents here.


They also express worries about the power and corruption of opposition-turned-Yanukovich allies, including judges, prosecutors and municipal authorities, especially in this key gateway to nearby EU nations Slovakia and Hungary.

BosNewsLife met the sister of a European Union citizen living here who said her family was negotiating a 30,000 dollar bribe with an Uzhhorod court to get him out of an overcrowded prison where he is awaiting a ruling on drugs charges. She spoke on condition of anonymity.

Uzhhorod also made headlines when Svetlana Milchevich, an evangelical voice of the voiceless with her

An Orthodox Church in Uzhhorod, Western Ukraine, where Christians have expressed concerns over corruption.

public fight against abuse of power and corruption, died in 2009 after officials refused to allow her to seek medical treatment in neighboring Hungary. She was 64.

Current Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told BosNewsLife before his election that his government would crackdown on corruption, including in border areas such as Uzzhorod, where impoverished Christians have appealed to authorities to end widespread “criminal behavior” by local authorities.


The European Union has become increasingly impatient. Last month the 27-nation block indefinitely postponed plans for Yanukovich to visit Brussels and demanded progress on the rule of law in Ukraine.

EU officials say preparations for a landmark free trade and association agreement with Ukraine continues, but warn ratification by European parliaments is in doubt due to rule-of-law and judicial concerns in the former Soviet nation.

President Yanukovich claims he remains optimistic. “The reforms of the judicial system should not be an area of disappointment for the EU’s leaders,” he said in a recent interview.

“We realize that our legal standards need to change…We are doing this as part of the process of EU integration, what we are doing is for our own sake.”


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