Yanukovych’s foreign minister charged with murdering businessman
By Oleg Sukhov.
Ukraine’s former foreign minister, Leonid Kozhara, was charged on March 25 with murdering businessman Serhiy Starytsky, the Kyiv prosecutor’s office said.
Kozhara did not respond to a request for comment, while his spokesperson, Ksenia Malovazhna, and the Miller law firm, which represents him, said they could not comment before the court hearing.
While it was widely reported in Ukrainian media that Kozhara was detained, the Miller law firm told the Kyiv Post that his car was merely stopped and the former minister was charged without being detained. Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky district court is scheduled to consider arresting Kozhara.
On Feb. 21, Starytsky was killed in Kozhara’s house. According to the investigators, he was shot with a Jericho 941 handgun registered to the ex-minister.
The Kyiv prosecutor’s office said that Kozhara and Starytsky were drinking alcohol and started fighting. Kozhara hit Starytsky on the back of the head and then shot him in the head, according to the prosecutor’s office.
If convicted of the businessman’s murder, Kozhara faces a prison sentence of between seven and 15 years.
The previous police report on Starytsky’s death deemed it a suicide.
Starytsky was the owner of Atlantic Group, a multi-industry holding company, and used to be the CEO of television channel Inter.
In 2012-2014, Kozhara served as foreign minister under ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in the EuroMaidan Revolution in February 2014. The former minister is also deputy head of a minor party called the Socialists.
Kozhara’s name appeared in the “black ledger” of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, allegedly a secret log of off-the-books payments to politicians, judges and others. The document has been invetigated by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the National Anti-Corruptrion Bureau of Ukraine.
According to the ledger, Kozhara allegedly received $39,328 in unlawful payments on April 29, 2011 for business trips to the U.S. and China. The Kyiv Post was unable to reach Kozhara for comment on these payments.