Ex-Deputy Prosecutor General Obykhod: Tymoshenko was named as organizer of Scherban's murder in 2002
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was mentioned in the context of her involvement in organizing the killing of MP Yevhen Scherban in testimony at the trial of Scherban's killers, former Ukrainian Deputy Prosecutor General Mykola Obykhod has said.
"We need to know the subject more deeply. There was a trial in Luhansk of the group of killers who murdered Scherban. The trial began in 2002 and lasted a year. The testimony of Mr. Petro Kyrychenko, an adviser to former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, was announced at this trial. He testified about the circumstances in which money was transferred from his accounts to the personal accounts of Matros, the well-known Oleksandr Ilchenko [a crime lord in Dnipropetrovsk]. So this testimony appears in the sentence of Luhansk Court of Appeals, which considered the case of the group of killers in 2003. It directly refers to the evidence that it was Yulia [Tymoshenko] who would pay [for the murder]. So we cannot say that Tymoshenko was not mentioned," he said in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine.
He said that at that time there was information about Tymoshenko's possible involvement in Scherban's murder, but investigators needed time to gather information and evidence.
"Investigations take time. It's impossible to press the button and get all of the evidence from somewhere. Here it was necessary to find some accounts and then check where the money came from. Sometimes, it takes several months and even decades to solve a crime. This is the methodical work, it was just necessary to collect the necessary information," Obykhod said.
In February 2002, Interfax-Ukraine reported, citing then Deputy Prosecutor General Obykhod, that $850,000 and $2 million had been transferred for the murder of MPs Vadym Hetman and Scherban from the personal accounts of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko to the account of the leader of a criminal group.
During the investigation into this criminal case, Obykhod said at that time, there were also facts of such transfers from the bank accounts of Lazarenko, "personal and controlled," to the personal accounts of Yevhen Kushnir, the leader of the criminal group that prepared and committed these murders.
The motive for Lazarenko to organize Scherban's murder was the fact that in 1995-1996, Scherban had a significant impact on the economy in Donetsk region and opposed Lazarenko's economic influence in this area.
When asked why in his statements in 2002 he did not mention that Lazarenko committed the crime along with Tymoshenko, Obykhod said: "Don't misunderstand me: if the investigator doesn't say something, this doesn't mean that this doesn't exist. He doesn't tell everything to the press and the public. Here there also are steps in bringing information to the public on criminal cases. If we come to the rostrum and say what happened at a certain stage of investigation, how and why, when this information is still secret, then someone will run away, some witnesses will be killed, and someone else will take some measures. That is, if something is not said, it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist."
Obykhod also said that the decision to combine two cases, regarding the suspicion of Tymoshenko of having organized Scherban's murder and embezzlement of budget funds to pay the debt of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) Corporation to the Russian Defense Ministry, was a common legal practice, since the crimes were committed by the same person.
When asked whether there will be enough evidence to convince the jury trial of the former prime minister's guilt of her crimes, the former deputy prosecutor general said: "It's necessary to ask the jury trial in its entire composition. It's impossible to guess what the evidence will be like, not knowing it."
From 1998 to 2002, Obykhod served as deputy prosecutor general and head of the department for investigating particularly important cases of the Prosecutor General's Office.
On January 22, 2013, the agency received a statement by the Prosecutor General's Office regarding the suspicion that Tymoshenko was involved in organizing Scherban's killing, which, in particular, says: "Due to the fact that they failed to reach agreement with Scherban on the terms of the delivery by UESU of natural gas directly to enterprises, consumers in Donetsk region, which caused a decrease in UESU profits, Tymoshenko and Lazarenko, in early 1996, made the joint decision to murder Scherban, which helped remove a competitor in business for Tymoshenko and Lazarenko, and in the political sphere for Lazarenko."
The document also notes that Lazarenko had to find those involved in Scherban's killing, while Tymoshenko, along with Lazarenko, had to make the payment for this crime using funds obtained from the commercial activity of enterprises that she controlled.
"In early 1996, Lazarenko informed his adviser Kyrychenko about the alleged presence of an 'existential threat' to Tymoshenko from representatives of the business and political elite in Donetsk region, led by Scherban, who allegedly ordered the physical destruction of Tymoshenko, that is why she needed protection by powerful crime lords. Kyrychenko, not knowing the true intentions of Lazarenko and Tymoshenko to kill Scherban, said that he maintains relations with Dnipropetrovsk crime lord Milchenko, nicknamed 'Matros,' who was previously convicted of robbery, fraud, and other crimes," reads the notification.
The document notes that Kyrychenko organized a meeting for Lazarenko with Milchenko, and during one of the meetings, "Tymoshenko and Lazarenko ordered Milchenko to murder Scherban, guaranteeing the payment of $3 million for this."
It also notes that Tymoshenko personally met with Milchenko and one of the leaders of the criminal group, Yevhen Kushnir, at the Natsionalny Hotel, where Tymoshenko lived at that time.
"During the said meeting, Kushnir agreed with Tymoshenko that he and his criminal group, along with Riabin, will perform her joint order with Lazarenko," reads the document.
Subsequently, according to the document, Tymoshenko ensured the transfer of funds to Kyrychenko's accounts and he transferred them to Milchenko and the leaders of the group.
"Tymoshenko and Lazarenko paid a total of $2.829 million for the murder," reads the document.
As reported, Scherban, a Verkhovna Rada deputy and a member of Liberal Party Executive Committee, was shot dead at the airport of Donetsk upon his arrival from Moscow on November 3, 1996. The assailants fled the scene in a car. Scherban, his wife and a mechanic died from gunshot wounds on the spot, and a flight engineer was wounded in the neck and died in hospital.
On April 17, 2003, the Court of Appeals of Luhansk region sentenced the murderers of Scherban and Head of the Ukrainian Interbank Currency Exchange, MP Vadym Hetman, to life imprisonment.
In particular, Vadym Bolotskykh was sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of property for Scherban's murder, and the same sentence was passed on Serhiy Kulev for Hetman's murder.
The court also found Bolotskykh guilty of killing Danko President Oleksandr Momot, and organizing an explosion at the Shakhtar Stadium in Donetsk in 1995 (that killed the president of FC Shakhtar and the head of the Lux company, Akhat Bragin).
In addition, the court sentenced Leonid Dobrobatko to life, with confiscation of his property, for murders and robberies. Five more people were sentenced to 11 to 15 years in prison for murders, assaults and robberies in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Kostiantyn Nikulin and Ihor Pushniakov were sentenced to 15 years in prison, with confiscation of their property, Eduard Kosyhin to 11.5 years in prison, with confiscation of his property, Mykola Malakhov and Serhiy Volodchenko to 11 years in prison, with confiscation of their property.
The defendants were part of a criminal group that operated in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The head of the group, Kushnir, died in Donetsk's detention center.