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Ukrainian Ex-Paramilitary Leader Suspected Of Premeditated Murder

Serhiy Sternenko in court in Kyiv on June 11.
Serhiy Sternenko in court in Kyiv on June 11.

KYIV -- A controversial former leader of a far-right Ukrainian paramilitary group says he is officially suspected of premeditated murder and possession of an illegal bladed weapon in the killing of a man he claims was self-defense.

Serhiy Sternenko, who once led the Right Sector group in the city of Odesa, wrote in a post on Facebook on June 11 that the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) had handed him a document informing him that he was a suspect in the case.

Sternenko was attacked by two men late in the evening on May 26, 2018, while walking with his girlfriend. He fought off the attackers, suffering numerous head injuries and a cut to his arm in the process. Sternenko injured one of the assailants who later died in hospital.

"There was no murder, but necessary self-defense, which was confirmed by an investigator earlier when he called the attackers suspects. As for the knife, several forensic evaluations established that it is not a bladed weapon," Sternenko wrote.

The SBU confirmed that Sternenko is a suspect in the case, saying that, after Sternenko defended himself using his knife, the attackers fled the scene. But Sternenko, whose life and health were no longer in danger, chased one of them and stabbed him several times, inflicting wounds that led to the man's death.

On May 18, when hundreds of Sternenko's supporters rallied in front of the SBU building, the SBU said Sternenko was not a suspect in the case.

Sternenko, who was questioned on that day, told his supporters that he was given the status of victim in one of cases and the status of witness in another one.

The attack was the third against Sternenko in three months.

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