KIEV, Ukraine Ukrainian authorities have formally notified jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that she is a suspect in the murder of a businessman and lawmaker in 1996.
Tymoshenko is suspected of “ordering and organizing” the contract-style murder of Yvhen Scherban, his wife and two other people, the Prosecutor General’s Office said on its website Friday. Prosecutors say the killing appeared aimed at eliminating a business rival.
The move stops short of formally charging Tymoshenko, but indicates charges are likely. Prosecutors have said for months that she was being investigated in the case. Tymoshenko denies the accusations and says it is part of a broader campaign by her foe, President Viktor Yanukovych, to keep her in prison and bar her from politics.
Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison term for abuse of office while negotiating a gas deal with Russia in 2009.
The new case was likely to further spoil Ukraine’s ties with Western nations, which have called Tymoshenko’s imprisonment politically motivated. The European Union has frozen a key cooperation deal with Ukraine over Tymoshenko’s imprisonment.
Tymoshenko’s party said a formal announcement of suspicion represented a “shameful day in the history of the Ukrainian law enforcement system.”