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07KYIV235, UKRAINE: SHCHERBAN CASE BEING SWEPT UNDER RUG

February 1, 2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KYIV235 2007-02-01 12:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO5096
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #0235/01 0321243
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011243Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1077
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 000235 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: SHCHERBAN CASE BEING SWEPT UNDER RUG 
 
REF: A. 05 KIEV 3144 
 
     B. 06 KYIV 4233 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Kent Logsdon for reasons 1.4(a,b,d). 
 
1. (C) Summary. It appears increasingly unlikely that former 
Sumy governor Volodymyr Shcherban, accused of election 
rigging and a number of other serious charges, will end up in 
court.  Shcherban, who fled to the U.S. in the spring of 2005 
to avoid arrest in Ukraine, was detained for overstaying his 
visa, and eventually agreed to voluntary departure and return 
to Ukraine in November 2006 after the Yanukovych Government 
came to power.  Regions MPs posted bail for Shcherban upon 
his arrival, and the Prosecutor's Office seems uninterested 
in pursuing the case, although it remains officially open for 
now.  If Shcherban had been tried and convicted, he would 
have been the most senior official to be convicted of 
election violations from 2004. 
 
2. (C) Comment: A number of recent developments related to 
Shcherban and his past associates underscore Ukraine's 
changing political and legal dynamics: the Sumy prosecutor's 
office announced on January 22 that it was considering 
prosecuting seven witnesses who had provided testimony in a 
related case that landed Shcherban's associate in jail for 
election fraud; the Sumy police chief who carried out 
election-related violence at Shcherban's request in August 
2004 is now Deputy Interior Minister; and Shcherban is even 
considering a return to politics.  People we spoke with in 
Sumy now appear more guarded--a marked change from the 
optimism we heard there in August 2006.  Despite the criminal 
case against Shcherban formally remaining open, we do not 
expect Shcherban to be convicted or even required to appear 
in court.  End summary and comment. 
 
A brief recap of Shcherban 
-------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) Volodymyr Shcherban stands accused of election 
rigging, extortion, tax evasion, and abuse of office during 
his terms as governor of Sumy province (1999-2004).  (Note: 
ref A reviewed extensive Embassy coverage of Shcherban's 
activities over the years. End Note)  Ukrainian criminal 
charges were filed in April 2005, in the aftermath of the 
Orange Revolution.  Shcherban fled Ukraine in March 2005 and 
entered the U.S. in April on a B-2 visa.  He was served 
notice to appear before a U.S. immigration court in October 
2005 after overstaying his visa; he eventually agreed to 
voluntary departure in October 2006.  Two of Shcherban's Sumy 
associates, former mayor Volodymyr Omelchenko and former 
local council member Olha Krutushkina, are the highest 
ranking officials to be convicted of abuse of office and 2004 
election-related crimes under the Kuchma regime.  Both were 
sentenced to multi-year prison terms, although Krutushkina 
was recently released early (see below). 
 
A Notorious Figure Returns... 
----------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) Shcherban returned to Ukraine on November 4, where 
he was remanded to custody to await formal charges.  In a 
twist, the Prosecutor's Office allowed three MPs from the 
Party of Regions to post bail and take Shcherban home to wait 
under unmonitored "house arrest." (ref B)  Shcherban and his 
U.S. lawyers launched a high-profile press campaign 
vigorously defending his actions in 2004 and denying the 
charges levied against him.  In a December 22 press 
interview, Shcherban acknowledged that his two million dollar 
bail had been paid by Regions MP and financier Rinat 
Akhmetov.  (Note: Shcherban's son, also a Regions MP, works 
as an executive for an Akhmetov-controlled company). 
 
...Awaits Judgment... 
--------------------- 
 
5. (C) The Ministry of the Interior (MOI)/police initially 
pursued the charges against Shcherban vigorously, but once 
they sent their findings to the Prosecutor General's office 
(PGO), the case slowed to a crawl.  Then Interior Minister 
Lutsenko blasted PGO inaction in the Shcherban case to 
Ambassador November 19, claiming the MOI/police were in "open 
warfare" with the PGO.  Prosecutor-General Medvedko claimed 
to an interviewer on December 25 that Shcherban case was 
moving very slowly because witnesses wanted Shcherban to be 
present when they testified; the case had been held up until 
Shcherban returned to Ukraine.  He added that if they found 
the basis for prosecuting Shcherban, they would. 
 
6. (SBU) A January 23 letter from the PGO in answer to 
LegAtt's official letter of inquiry on the status of the 
Shcherban investigation reported that the tax evasion case 
had been closed due to lack of evidence.  Charges were still 
 
KYIV 00000235  002 OF 002 
 
 
pending on three other alleged crimes--prevention of 
exercising electoral rights; infliction of bodily injuries on 
a judge or law enforcement officer; and overstepping 
authority that led to harming the rights of a group of 
people.  The letter said that they were also investigating 
three other possible crimes.  The letter closed by stating 
that when all investigations were complete, a "well-grounded 
decision" would be made. 
 &#x00
0A;...And is Reborn? 
----------------- 
 
7. (SBU) In a lengthy December 22 interview with on-line news 
site Glavred, Shcherban insisted that he was no longer a 
suspect, but rather a witness.  He insisted that the charges 
against him had been falsified and he was waiting for them to 
be lifted.  He claimed that Yuriy Lutsenko, when Minister of 
the Interior, had targeted him for political reasons to 
increase his own stature.  In the interview, he said he 
talked regularly to former President Kuchma and that Akhmetov 
was a friend.  Shcherban then said that he wanted and was 
obligated to return to politics, once the criminal charges 
were cleared up. 
 
8. (SBU) Interestingly, around the same time, an article 
appeared in Segodnya, a newspaper owned by Akhmetov, accusing 
presidential brother Petro Yushchenko of trying to force 
Shcherban to sell all his business interests.  The article 
insinuated that the charges against Shcherban and his 
subsequent flight to the U.S. were a result of Shcherban's 
refusal to cooperate with Petro Yushchenko. 
 
9. (C) Comment: While Petro Yushchenko is no angel, this 
story seems to have been planted to undermine the credibility 
of the ongoing investigation against Shcherban.  End comment. 
 
Developments on the Ground: The Old Team Vindicated? 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
10. (C) Alla Fedorina of the Sumy Press club told us on 
January 24 that Shcherban has not been back to Sumy since he 
returned to Ukraine and that, in fact, he had sold off some 
of his business interests in the oblast.  She told us that 
people had lost interest in the legal proceedings, but added 
that people felt insecure and were reluctant to tell the 
truth because they believed their lives may be in danger if 
they did.  Perhaps supporting such sentiments, the Sumy 
prosecutor's office announced on January 22 that it was 
considering opening criminal cases against seven witnesses 
who testified against Shcherban associate Olha Krutushkina, 
who was sentenced to a 5-year jail term in 2005 for 
falsifying election results but released early in December 
2006 after a Supreme Court ruling. 
 
11. (C) The former head of Interpol's bureau in Ukraine 
Kyrylo Kulykov, who just left his job to work for Lutsenko's 
new civic movement, told us on January 31 that the witnesses 
in Shcherban's case had begun recanting once Shcherban 
returned to Ukraine.  According to Kulykov, these people were 
afraid for their lives, but there was no way the MOI could 
offer adequate protection to all of them.  In his view, at 
the end of the day, Shcherban would never be convicted. 
 
12. (C) Comment: When we visited Sumy in August 2006, people 
seemed almost giddy to be free of what they had seen as 
Shcherban's repressive rule.  Now people seem concerned that 
there may have been a reversal of gains made and are acting 
more cautiously.  Fedorina said that people are convinced 
that either pressure or bribes were involved in the Supreme 
Court decision freeing Krutushkina, as well as the decision 
to prosecute the people whose testimony contributed to her 
conviction.  A similar message of vindicating Shcherban's old 
Sumy team and forgetting past election-related sins was sent 
when former Sumy police chief, Mykhalo Plekhanov, who ordered 
the violent dispersal of student protesters in August 2004 at 
Shcherban's behest, was appointed as Deputy Interior Minister 
in December 2006.  End comment. 
 
13. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

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