Ukrainian authorities are continuing their high-profile campaign directed against former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, linking her to contract-style killings of rival businessmen, in particular that of Yevhen Shcherban, in the mid-nineties.
Last night on national TV, deputy prosecutor-general Renat Kuzmin repeated the accusations in a series of prejucial and unsubstantiated comments.
I have previously mentioned that in the murky mid nineteen nineties after the fall of the Soviet Union, many dozens of prominent businessmen were murdered in the Donetsk oblast in a bloody carve up of local assets and property. Those who emerged triumphant dominate business and politics in Ukraine to this day.
Both the current prosecutor-general Viktor Pshonka, and his deputy, Renat Kuzmin, were highly placed in the Donetsk prosecutor's office at that time. From 1986 Pshonka was chief prosecutor in Kramatorsk, then deputy prosecutor in the Donetsk oblast, and chief prosecutor there from 1998 until 2003. Kuzmin held high office in the regional prosecutors' offices both in Donetsk and other nearby regions. Because so few of these violent crimes were ever solved, frequently suspects themselves were killed in mysterious circumstances whilst in custody, so collusion between mobsters and law enforcement agencies was highly probable.
I recently came across a good account, in English, of the bloody battles between the Donetsk and the Dnipropetrovsk clans, [in particular between the Industrial Union of Donbas [IUD] and United Energy Systems of Ukraine [UESU]], and the manner in which the Donetsk clan eventually came to wield such great power. [Source - particularly pages 379 - 383.]
Who was responsible for murdering who in these battles is not entirely clear though. In an article in the latest 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya', Serhiy Kuzin writes:
Akhat' Bragin, Rinat Akhmetov, Yevhen Shcherban, Oleskandr Momot were the top men in IUD. At first it was just a 'two computer-three secretary' company which sent out faxes to directors of companies with 'recommendations' to buy gas from IUD.
Lazarenko at UESU was engaged in the same trade, but on a nationwide scale. The fight for the business of large industrial enterprises was written in a 'red thread' in clashes between the opposing Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk groups. The price for gas proposed by IUD managers was not particularly attractive to Donbas businessmen - they could get a better deal with UESU. 'Disobedient' directors of factories and industrial plants, naturally were not keen to pay their exorbitant prices. The-then governor of the Donetsk region, Volodymyr Shcherban [not to be confused with Yevhen..LEvko], favoured IUD and sent letters to all factory bosses with a "recommendation" they buy gas from their own people.
As a result, these factories and plants were driven into the hands of IUD and evenually became their property. But by that time Bragin, Momot and Yevhen Scherban had been violently killed... they had previously been considered the most influential people in the region. After their deaths the war in the region ceased....
Rinat Akhmetov, [the sole survivor of the IUD quartet..F.N.] came away from IUD with the lion's share of its enterprises, having already created SCM. The remaining scraps were redeveloped by Haiduk, Taruta and Mkrtchyan into what became their own IUD ...
Raking up the past in order to destroy Tymoshenko as a political opponent exposes the bloody past of Ukraine's richest and most powerful men too...Comments on various blog postings are sometimes informative and constructive...E.g. there is good evidence that by late 1995 UESU and IUD were well on the way to resolving their differences, a year before Shcherban's death.
Fifty-year old Yevhen Shcherban was also a talented and influential Verkhovna Rada 'Liberal Party of Ukraine' deputy. He was a successful businessman in his own right and had excellent political perspectives - quite capable of leading the 'Donetski' to power in Kyiv. In the summer of 1996 the still relatively weak president Kuchma, sacks Volodymyr Shcherban as Donetsk governor. Yevhen Shcherban starts forming a major group in the VR together with other leading Ukrainian politicians...and becomes an advisor to Lazarenko, who was by then prime minister. The day before his murder, Y. Scherban was to meet Lazarenko to strengthen their ties....
Shcherban's death opened a path to Kyiv, under the patronage of Kuchma, to - an almost unknown, twice-convicted Donetsk motor pool manager...Yulia Tymoshenko's deadliest enemy, the current president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
Other notable political associates of Shcherban's say Tymoshenko was not at all influential at that time...she was still running around "with pig-tails and school socks"... They point the finger at Kuchma...