Businessman and member of Kyiv Oblast Council Vyacheslav Sobolev on Dec. 4 named eight people who may have had a motive to kill him in an attempted assassination that ended in the murder of his 3-year-old son.

Sobolev’s list of suspects includes two former judges and a former top lawmaker.

The boy, Oleksandr Sobolev, was killed when a gunman opened fire on the car driven by his father on Dec. 1 in central Kyiv. Bullets struck and killed the child instead. The attack occurred near Mario, a high-end restaurant owned by Sobolev.

Two suspects were arrested the day after the murder.

Sobolev named eight people with whom he has had conflicts and who should be questioned by police.

They include some prominent figures, including ex-chairman of the High Commercial Court Viktor Tatkov, ex-deputy chairman Artur Yemelyanov, lawyer Ruslan Braslavsky, judicial assistant Pavlo Malyk, and former member of parliament from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc Oleksandr Hranovsky.

“I’m not ready to blame them. I’m not an investigator. I’m not a judge. I suggest that these people should take a lie detector,” Sobolev told journalists after a court hearing concerning the murder of his son on Dec. 4. “Let them prove that they are innocent.”

The five he named denied involvement, while the others didn’t comment or couldn’t be reached.

A 3-year-old Oleksandr Sobolev, son of businessman and politician Vyacheslav Sobolev, was murdered in Kyiv on Dec. 1, 2019, when unknown people fired shots at his father’s car. (Facebook/Inna Soboleva)

Past conflicts

Sobolev is a well-known businessman from Donetsk, a city of 1 million people 670 kilometers east of Kyiv that has been under control by Russia since 2014. He is the founder and former owner of the city’s first supermarket chain, Obzhora.

Tatkov, who headed the High Commercial Court in 2010-2014, is wanted in Ukraine for corruption and money laundering. He denied the charges and said the case was politically motivated. He resides in Austria, where he applied for political asylum.

Yemelyanov is a suspect in the same case. The two have been charged with illegal interfering in the random distribution of cases – the system the Ukrainian courts have to prevent judges from interfering into the cases – and issuing unlawful rulings.

Tatkov, Yemelyanov, Malyk and Braslavsky all share a connection to the High Commercial Court. While Yemelyanov was even accused of sponsoring terrorism by Ukraine’s Security Service in 2018.

Sobolev and Yemelyanov have been in conflict over property ownership in Donetsk and Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian media.

In 2016, Sobolev claimed that he received death threats and said that Yemelyanov was behind them. Yemelyanov sued Sobolev for defamation and won.

The nature of Sobolev’s conflict with Hranovsky is unknown. In his response to accusations, Hranovsky said “even thinking” about ordering an assassination isn’t in his nature and agreed to take a lie detector test, if Sobolev wanted it.

Hranovsky, formerly one of the most influential members of the Ukrainian parliament, has kept a low profile since his term ended on Aug. 29. According to a Kyiv Post investigation, he received an immigration visa to Israel and possibly left Ukraine. He neither confirmed nor denied it. Before he left, the State Bureau of Investigations launched an investigation into abuse of power by him.

Sobolev’s wife and mother of the killed boy, Inna Soboleva, said on Dec. 4 that Hranovsky talked to her and persuaded her that he didn’t order the assassination.

On Dec. 2, Kyiv police arrested two suspects, 18 and 19 years old. According to police, one of them shot at a car carrying Sobolev and his family from a building across the street, later identified as a hotel. The two will be detained for two months pending a conviction.

While not identified officially, media reports have named Andriy Levrega and Yevhen Smyrnov as the detained suspects.

Both Levrega and Smyrnov fought for Ukraine in the ongoing war against Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 13,000 since 2014.

In October 2018, Levrega was awarded an Order for Courage.

Ukrainian media reported that the suspects testified to police regarding the identity of the person who had ordered the shooting.

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