A lawyer for former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] announced Monday that a criminal investigation has been initiated against him. The criminal investigation against Serhiy Vlasenko involves [AP report] alleged car theft, robbery and failure to obey a court order. Vlasenko has denied all allegations and condemned the government's action as being politically motivated to deprive Tymoshenko of her defense, just three days after Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka [official website, in Ukrainian] charged [JURIST report] Tymoshenko with murder for her role in the contract-style killing of Yevhen Shcherban and two others in 1996. Vlasenko stated that the allegations were based on groundless facts because the car theft involved taking of his own car that his divorced wife claims to be hers while the robbery charge relates to taking of his ex-wife's cellphone to erase some video files of himself. Although Vlasenko is protected under the parliamentary immunity, he expects that such protection will be eliminated within the next three weeks, making him subject to arrest. If prosecuted for the allegations, he may face a prison term of seven years.
Tymoshenko has already been sentenced to seven years in prison on corruption charges and is currently awaiting trial for charges of tax evasion [JURIST reports]. That trial has been postponed multiple times [JURIST report] since it began in April. The trials against the former prime minister have sparked international criticism. In September the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] unanimously passed [JURIST report] a resolution calling for Ukraine to release Tymoshenko from prison. It condemned current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website] for his role in the allegedly politically motivated imprisonment. In August the Ukrainian Supreme Court [official website, in Ukrainian] upheld [JURIST report] Tymoshenko's abuse of office conviction. During the appeal the government denied allegations that the criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko were a measure initiated by Yanukovich to prevent her from participating in the October elections. The decision came only a day after the European Court of Human Rights [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] on Tymoshenko's appeal.