KIEV  - The legal problems of Ukraine's jailed former PM Yulia Tymoshenko mounted on Tuesday after a top prosecutor said he was planning to charge her over the murder of a lawmaker in 1996. Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said in a newspaper interview the only obstacle in the way of charging was Tymoshenko's current hospitalisation for severe back pains but expressed confidence the case would come to court. Ukrainian MP Yevgen Shcherban was gunned down along with his wife at Donetsk airport in 1996 in a contract killing the Ukrainian legal authorities have also linked to ex-prime minister and former Tymoshenko ally Pavlo Lazarenko.
"We have enough proof confirming Tymoshenko's implication in this murder and we are intending to present her with charges," Kuzmin told the Ukrainian edition of Kommersant in comments published on Monday.
"We have enough information confirming her interest in the removal of Shcherban, there is information confirming the transfer of money from accounts that she controls, there is direct testimony from witnesses who say she was the organiser and financier of the murder," he added.
He said that Shcherban had been in conflict with Tymoshenko who at the time headed a major gas utility United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) and had been to persuade businesses in his Donetsk region to buy its energy resources.
Kuzmin portrayed the conflict as a fight between politicians and oligarchs from Tymoshenko's home region of Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine and the industrial hub of Donetsk in the east.
"Shcherban had publicly accused Lazarenko and Tymoshenko of improper conduct of business," he said. Lazarenko was convicted by a court in the United States of corruption and is currently serving a sentence at a Californian jail.
However Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party on Tuesday dismissed Kuzmin's comments as "hysteria".
"They show that the repressive system is focusing on executing the orders of President Viktor Yanukovych, however absurd they are," spokeswoman Natalya Lysova told AFP.
Tymoshenko is already serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power while in office, which she says was ordered by Yanukovych and has led to a drastic deterioration in Kiev's ties with the European Union.
Kuzmin said her ill health was impeding the authorities from presenting the murder charges and investigators could not carry out the necessary interrogation while she was in this condition.
"When this political show ends, when this endless hysteria is halted, then comes the time for fruitful work by investigators," he said.
He alleged that the notorious Kushnir criminal gang that operated in Ukraine in the 1990s "carried out the orders of Lazarenko in the interests of Tymoshenko."
"The investigation has established that the gang took part in 25 murders and attempted murders," he added, refusing to say if Tymoshenko could be accused over all of these crimes.
He said that Tymoshenko was acquainted with members of the Kushnir gang and had "friendly" relations with its leaders.
On top of her conviction for abuse of power, Tymoshenko meanwhile has also been charged with tax fraud and embezzlement while she headed UESU, although her trial has yet to get properly underway due to her ill health.