The Ukrainian prosecution will press murder charges against the country’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in two weeks time, Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin, responsible for her case, told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
He spoke with EurActiv’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.
Mr Kuzmin, we are meeting for the second time since your Brussels visit last November when you vowed to press more charges against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. I am going to ask you a question I didn’t ask before: what kind of person is Ms Tymoshenko? What do you think about her?
What kind of person is she? You should ask the people she has worked with, the members of her family, you should ask her friends. I am not part of that group. So it is difficult for me to say what kind of person she is.
I have seen a press report in which you are quoted calling her a “killer”. Although she has not been convicted of any murder. Can you explain yourself?
I may be quoted saying such a thing, but I didn’t say that. I have no idea how the translators translated, or what the journalist has written, and I haven’t read the article [the present interview was done in Russian without an interpreter]. What I said was the following: if we prove that she has ordered a murder, we will send the case to court, which will take action. If we don’t prove anything like this, we will put an end to the case.
But on the present day, we have enough proof, attesting that herself, as well as Pavel Lazerenko [former prime minister of Ukraine, 1996-1997], who is serving a sentence in an American jail, are responsible for a murder, committed on the territory of Ukraine. More exactly, of the murder of Member of Parliament and businessman Yefhen Shcherban. This is what I have said and what I confirm to you.
Today the prosecution is investigating this criminal case and is checking the facts showing the participation of Tymoshenko and Lazarenko in the organisation and financing of this murder. And the work already done has given results. We have the testimony of several people who directly point to Tymoshenko and Lazarenko as the people who ordered and financed the murder, we have also indirect indications in the same sense. We gather testimony, we study documents, all the trade activity [of Tymoshenko] in that period, and if enough proof is gathered, we will send the case to court.
But let me point out: I represent the prosecution. I am not an arbiter, not a judge. I express the position of the inquiry. It is normal that the position of the prosecution or the inquiry runs contrary to that of the defense, or the position of Tymoshenko and Lazarenko themselves.
When are you going to be ready with the charges?
In the next two weeks.
You mean before the Euro 2012 football cup, which Ukraine is co-hosting with Poland, and which starts from 8 June? You certainly realise how much your country has invested for making this event a success? Or this doesn’t matter to you in your capacity of prosecutor?
You asked me when we will be ready. And we will be ready in two weeks. When actually the follow up will take place doesn’t depend on us. Tymoshenko today is undergoing treatment. According to Ukrainian law, we cannot prosecute a sick person. Will she be sick for one month or two months or a year? I don’t know, but we cannot prosecute her in this time span.
Do you imply she is pretending to be sick?
I think she has no disease that necessitates an urgent operational intervention. In any case, we have no documents attesting the need for operational intervention, of any surgery, of additional medical assistance, etc. One hundred and fifty women serving sentences in the Kachinavska [women's penal] colony [in Kharkiv] have the same disease as Tymoshenko and the condition of several is worse than her's.
Tymoshenko today benefits from the best treatment. She is treated by Europe’s best doctors. Especially for her, a clinic has been furbished. She is treated by German doctors, by Ukrainian doctors, by her own doctors. Overall, she has been medically checked [while in detention] 266 times. Not a single prisoner in Europe benefits from medical treatment like Tymoshenko. Not only prisoners, ordinary European citizens, civil servants or high level politicians are not so closely followed medically as her.
However, the prosecution is hardly competent regarding health issues. I assume this is the competence of medical authorities in Ukraine, as it is in Europe, or maybe you will correct me? And you probably express personal views regarding her state of health?
What I said is that we don’t have any documents, attesting the danger of her disease and requiring an urgent operational intervention. I have asked the German doctors: does she need surgery? Does she need special treatment? They answer was straightforward: no, she doesn’t need such treatment. She needs treatment, but nothing special.
And the whole story about her bruises, that we have beaten her, it really causes astonishment. Tymoshenko says she has been beaten by personnel of the inquiry services of the colony. The question is why should they beat her? As a journalist, do you find any logic why they would beat her? What would they obtain?
What I can say since you ask me, is that huge efforts are deployed by the Ukrainian government against Tymoshenko, and very little is being done concerning any other criminal cases. Too many crimes have been committed in Ukraine, too many people have become very rich overnight, probably this goes on. That’s what the EU calls “selective justice”. Wouldn’t you understand that this hounding of Tymoshenko makes a very bad impression abroad?
I think the Tymoshenko case has been artificially set up by politicians. This is a deliberate heightening of pressure, this is about deliberate disinformation and this is a deliberate discrediting of the Ukrainian authorities.
Once again I state that nobody has beaten Tymoshenko. Nobody has caused her physical harm. On 20 April, according to her, she has been beaten. But she said this officially on the 24th. Why didn’t she mention it for three days? She was at that time in a civil hospital. There were two women [patients] in her hospital room. Civil doctors have examined her during this period. Why didn’t she tell them about it? But she didn’t and only three or four days later made statements.
Besides, up to now, she didn’t allow for her being examined by any judicial medical expert. She forbids being examined be examined and prevents from determining [whether] there are indeed bruises on her body? Why do you think she has bruises on her body? You saw photographs in the internet? From where did they appear?
A video also appeared. So what does the prosecution say? You should know.
Our authorities don’t know. Our authorities think this is a fake video and fake photographs.
You mean it’s not her on the photos?
In my humble understanding, with Photoshop, any kind of bruises can be painted on your body as we speak. Regarding Tymoshenko, in the last period of almost a year, we know, and this is the naked truth and there are written documents about it, that blue spots appear on her body and disappear without treatment.
We have testimony for a dozen such cases and we wanted to investigate the reasons, by taking blood samples. But Tymoshenko prohibits any blood samples to be taken from her. Neither to Ukrainian, nor to German doctors.
Does she have some religious understanding which prevents her from giving blood?
She understands that through the blood samples, the doctors will determine why these blue spots appear. And maybe she doesn’t want doctors to find in her body certain substances. A blood analysis would make it clear what diseases she suffers from, and she suffers from no disease. That’s why she doesn’t give blood samples.
I also asked the German doctors: she seems to trust you, but doesn’t agree for a blood test. Why? The Germans cannot answer this question. They say she doesn’t give blood, full stop.
On 27 April a series of blasts hurt 27 people in Dniproetrovsk. You seem to deploy more effort against Tymoshenko rather than finding out who is behind the blasts, although “terrorism” was mentioned.
It’s because the prosecution doesn’t investigate terrorism. Terrorism is investigated by the Security Service. It’s them who investigate. While the investigation of persons in high positions is the competence of the prosecution.
Are there other VIPs under investigation?
Yes. We investigate the cases against ministers, deputy ministers, heads of State committees, even from the present government of [Mykola] Azarov. We investigate officials and civil servants from the Party of Regions, which is in power in the country. And they are much more numerous than all the opposition personalities from all the previous governments. But nobody writes about that. Europe doesn’t care, you don’t care either. What interests you is Tymoshenko. But why? Why such attention?
Since you ask me a question, let me mention Tymoshenko’s role in your country’s Orange Revolution. You should not expect Europe to forget about that. But let me ask you: if at political level your authorities decide to get rid of this problem to move the country closer to the EU, and if the Ukrainian Parliament votes to set Tymoshenko free, how would you feel?
If the Parliament passes a law that whatever she did was not a crime, this would lead to her freedom and return to normal life. How could one react? The laws which the Parliament adopts must be respected. And I will implement such a law.
Do you meet with the President Yanukovich, do you keep him informed him of the Tymoshenko case?
We have a chain of command. I have been appointed [as deputy prosecutor general] by the general prosecutor of Ukraine. And the general prosecutor of Ukraine is appointed and dismissed by the president. So much for reporting.
Which means the prosecutor general keeps President Yanukovich regularly updated…
I don’t know how often if at all the prosecutor general reports to the president on criminal cases. But the fact that the president has the power to give instructions to the prosecutor general, to check certain facts, this is the constitutional right of the president. But how exactly they communicate, I don’t know.
In EU countries the president or the head of government don’t interfere with the prosecutor, they don’t give them instructions. It’s a matter of separation of powers.
Under our constitution, the President has such powers. The presidents appoints the ministers, the prime minister, the judges, and there is nothing illegal about that. And if the president appoints the prosecutor general and the minister of interior, he has the right to request the specialized bodies to make certain checks, to make sure that the laws of the country are respected.
About the blasts you mentioned, the president asked the competent authorities to investigate and find the culprits as soon as possible. Is this bad, under European law? What do you say?
In any country, the prosecution would seize itself and investigate as a matter of priority any case of terrorism. But as a last question: how would you like the Tymoshenko case to finish?
I would like the Tymoshenko case to conclude by a lawful, fair and equitable judicial way. If the fair and just court would rule out in an open process that Tymoshenko is guilty and pronounces a verdict, I think all should calm down. And if the court declares her innocent, all should calm down as well and accept the court’s decision. I would like no one to interfere in the work of the judges, prosecutors and advocates, and that all sides would accept the decision to be made.