UK & World News

  • 20 January 2013, 4:06

Ukraine's Tymoshenko 'Accused' Of 1996 Murder

The former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been named as a suspect in the murder of a businessman and his wife in 1996.

Ukranian authorities have formally notified Tymoshenko that she is suspected of "ordering and organising" the contract-style killing of the couple and two other people.

The Prosecutor General's Office said on its website that the murder appeared aimed at eliminating a business rival.

While the notice is not a formal charge, it does indicate that charges against the 52-year-old are likely.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison term for abuse of office while negotiating a gas deal with Russia in 2009.

However, Western nations, including the UK, have called her imprisonment politically motivated and the European Union has frozen a key deal with Ukraine because of it.

Tymoshenko denies the allegation and claims it is part of a broader campaign against her by the President, Viktor Yanukovych, who, she says, wants to keep her in prison and out of politics.

The latest move against Tymoshenko, who led the Orange Revolution and often made headlines in the West because of her unique hairstyle, is expected to further mar relations with the EU.

Tymoshenko's party said the formal announcement of suspicion represented a "shameful day in the history of the Ukrainian law enforcement system".

The European Court of Human Rights is expected to rule on the Tymoshenko gas case in the next few weeks, and analysts said the murder case was the government's attempt to keep her in jail during the 2015 presidential campaign.

Vadim Karasyov, a political analyst with ties to the government, told the Interfax news agency: "It is evident that the Ukrainian authorities are really and seriously intent on keeping Tymoshenko in jail."

Meanwhile, Tymoshenko's family have expressed concern over the state of her health. She is undergoing hospital treatment for a severe back condition.

Her lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, said on Friday that when he tried to see her recently, she was unresponsive for several minutes.

Doctors insisted she was in a satisfactory condition and was under the influence of sedatives.

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