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Ukrainian Police Major, Ex-Convict Wanted in Arson of RFE/RL’s Reporter’s Car

FILE - The burnt car of RFE/RL journalist Halyna Tereshchuk in is seen on a street in Lviv, western Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General’s Office in Lviv suspects an underworld criminal and a police major of collusion in the arson of a vehicle belonging to RFE/RL correspondent Halyna Tereshchuk.

Iryna Didenko, the lead prosecutor of the Lviv region, signed the charge sheets for the two suspects on Feb. 11.

Accused of ordering the torching of the journalist’s car is a 48-year-old former convict, who is known in the criminal world for black-market schemes and stealing fuel at the Lviv railway.

Allegedly colluding with him was a 43-year-old National Police major in the Lviv region, who sought the arsonist and paid him for the crime, according to Didenko.

The suspects are on a nationwide wanted list.

Both would be prosecuted for intentional destruction of or damage to property, which carries a prison sentence of six to 15 years.

The journalist, who has worked for RFE/RL since 2000, said at the time of the arson on Jan. 30 that she suspected the attack was linked to her professional activities.

Police on Feb. 6 detained a 19-year-old male in Odesa for allegedly setting the reporter’s car on fire. If found guilty, he faces three to 10 years in prison.

The case has been jointly investigated by prosecutors and investigators from the Security Service (SBU).

The Ukrainian unit of rights group Freedom House has condemned the torching of Tereshchuk's car, as well as that of Andriy Lukin, an activist in Zaporizhzhya, whose car was also set ablaze on Jan. 29.

The group stated that "arson or other methods of destruction of vehicles and property are becoming increasingly used as a means to pressure active people in Ukraine."

It noted that there were 11 cases last year of property belonging to activists being destroyed and "in almost all cases, the perpetrators were not found and punished."