US Ambassador Criticizes Tymoshenko’s Prosecution

The trial against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is an example of selective justice, said US ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft at a Thursday lecture. He added that the US has no evidence of Tymoshenko’s involvement in the 1996 murder of her business rival Yevhen Scherban, which her political opponents have linked her to.

Answering students’ questions after a lecture at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy School of Law, Tefft said that the American Embassy in Kyiv received a letter from Scherban’s son Ruslan, asking the US authorities to share any evidence they might have about his father’s murder.

"We have received a letter from Scherban. We believe that this is a private case, not one that can be discussed in public," Tefft said.

Scherban was assassinated in 1996 at the Donetsk airport, as he was returning from Moscow. His wife and two others were also killed.

Prosecutors accuse Tymoshenko of organizing Scherban’s murder with her business partner former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko. Lazarenko has been serving a nine year sentence in the US for corruption and extortion since 2006.

Tefft said that the American prosecutors who worked on the Lazarenko case did not come across any evidence linking Tymoshenko to Scherban’s assassination.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office also requested that the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine share any relevant information they might have regarding Tymoshenko and Lazarenko.

In his speech, Tefft emphasized the importance of judicial transparency and fairness as the basis of a democratic society and a healthy economy. He added that while Ukraine has competent lawyers and has received significant foreign financial aid, judicial reform in Ukraine is impossible without a strong will in the country.