KIEV - Prosecutors on Friday accused Ukraine’s jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko of organising the 1996 murder of a powerful lawmaker and warned that a guilty verdict could put her behind bars for life. Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said the fiery 52-year-old has been informed by prosecutors she and another former prime minister detained in the United States are now formal suspects in the murder of deputy Yevgen Shcherban. “We have collected evidence from the pre-trial investigation indicating that Tymoshenko really did order this murder together with (former prime minister Pavlo) Lazarenko,” Pshonka told reporters.
“Today, an investigative team from the prosecutor general’s office visited Tymoshenko in order to hand her (her documents on) suspicion of having committed a crime.” He said the opposition leader has been named as suspect under an article in the criminal code which meant she could spend the rest of her life in prison. Tymoshenko was sentenced to a seven-year jail term in 2011 amid Western outrage at her treatment by the government of her rival, President Viktor Yanukovych. She is currently being treated for back pain in a hospital outside her prison in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The start of her second trial on embezzlement and tax evasion has been delayed until February 12 because of her medical condition. Tymoshenko has also refused to cooperate with either her state doctors or the courts. Both the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution leader and her supporters claim that all the charges against her as well as the possible murder charges are retribution by the Yanukovych government. The charges against Tymoshenko and Lazarenko - a former prime minister and close ally who was convicted and jailed for money laundering in the United States in 2006 - state that the two paid $2.8 million to a contract killer to eliminate Shcherban.