First persona non grata over politically motivated trials in Ukraine?
A day after Deputy Prosecutor Renat Kuzmin’s letter to President Obama was published on the Prosecutor General’s site, there has only been confirmation that Kuzmin’s 5-year was cancelled, no statement as to why.
Radio Svoboda reports US analysts as calling the letter “undiplomatic” and “a disgrace for Ukrainian diplomacy”. The opus can, but does not necessarily need to be read in its entirety to understand why. Over the last 12 months or so Kuzmin has on a number of occasions accused imprisoned former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko of being implicated in the murder of MP Eugene Scherban in 1996. These accusations have been made very publicly, however without any actual charge being laid or hard evidence provided.
Kuzmin claims now in his letter that witnesses in Ukraine say that in 2004 they provided documents “upon the matter of Eugene Scherban’s murder and other related crimes to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office requested copies of this documentary evidence from the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as from the U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Ukraine, John Tefft. Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office received no response to these requests for copies of this documentation from the U.S. Department of Justice. We had to resort to direct public appeals to American authorities with the request to receive assistance in investigating relevant cases. In response, American Ambassador to Ukraine, John Tefft, claimed, that he had no information concerning availability of the aforementioned documentation requested by Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office. The U.S. Department of Justice has remained silent. Consequently, there is an impression, forming in Ukraine, that some American officials are concealing information, which could aid in the search for those, who ordered Eugene Scherban’s murder.”
It should be stressed that this letter was sent by Ukraine’s First Deputy Prosecutor General to the US President, and then published in both English and Ukrainian on the PGO’s official website. One of the “witnesses” repeatedly cited is Mykola Melnychenko whose return to face certain arrest on the eve of the elections led to considerable speculation. This may give some blurred idea of what behind-the-scenes agreements prompted Melnychenko to return. It remains baffling, however, how those in power hope, even with the media under their control, to raise more than winces of embarrassment from the extraordinary allegations.
“There is an elaborated plan by the U.S. Department of Justice, initiated by some American and Ukrainian politicians, to counteract and eliminate the case of Eugene Scherban’s murder. One of the objectives of this plan is contravene the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office indictment of Julia Tymoshenko and Pavel Lazarenko within the confines of the case. A former employee of President Leonid Kuchma’s security staff, Nikolai Melnichenko, who has recently returned to Ukraine from the USA, gave evidence about this plan to Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office investigators. One of the goals of this plan is not only to discredit the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office investigative group, but to discredit me personally as well. Initiators of the plan presumed to provoke my arrest in the territory of the USA, based upon specially fabricated indictments. Nikolai Melnichenko was to become a participant in this international provocation. The goal of my arrest was the discredit of my person before American authorities and thus corroborate that my actions’ were illegal in the USA. I was to be incriminated by alleging that I coerced a witness, Nikolai Melnichenko, in a murder case to give evidence to Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office investigators. Thus, the initiators of the plan intended to force termination not only of this murder investigation by Ukrainian authorities, but also other crimes, of which Mrs. Tymoshenko is accused.”
Kuzmin also claims that no reason was given for the cancellation of his 5-year visa. Kyiv Post reports the US Ambassador John Teffl as refuting any plans to arrest Kuzmin and as indicating that Kuzmin was informed of the reason.
The reason for the cancellation is not given, however certain conclusions are difficult to avoid considering Kuzmin’s extremely active role in Tymoshenko’s prosecution. He has even travelled abroad trying to convince the West that there are no political motives, only prosecution of a hardened criminal.
Thus far with no success, and his latest epistolary feat will not help. The enormous publicity might, however, give food for thought to other officials, representatives of the judiciary etc whose role in politically motivated prosecutions have not gone unnoticed.