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Report: Ukrainian Found Competent

February 13, 1999

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ A Ukrainian court trying a man on charges of 52 killings ruled that the defendant was mentally competent and could be held responsible for his deeds, a news report said Friday.

The regional court in Zhytomyr said Thursday that Anatoliy Onoprienko ``does not suffer any psychiatric diseases, is conscious of and is in control of the actions he commits, and does not require any extra psychiatric examination,″ according to the Interfax news agency.

Onoprienko, 39, has been on trial since November for the killings of 52 people, including entire families with small children, over the past 10 years.

The former forester and sailor has confessed to all of the killings, his lawyer has said.

Onoprienko has remained completely silent during court hearings over the past month, declining to answer questions and refusing to explain his behavior to court officials even outside the courtroom.

Psychiatrist Andriy Tsubera of Ukraine’s leading psychiatric institute, who was invited to Zhytomyr to examine Onoprienko, attributed his refusal to talk to realizing that ``his fate is already decided, and his testimony would hardly change anything,″ according to Interfax.

However, Onoprienko has eagerly communicated with the media recently, and even gave a long interview to a Ukrainian daily last month, in which he said without elaborating that he would rather be sentenced to death than receive a life sentence.

It is not yet clear when the trial will finish, but court officials have said it might take up to four months.

With the latest psychiatric examination showing Onoprienko mentally healthy, he will likely be sentenced to death if convicted.

But he is unlikely to be executed, because Ukraine has pledged as a member of the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights group, to suspend capital punishment and eventually ban it.

Courts in the former Soviet republic are continuing to hand down death sentences, but none of the 146 people sentenced to death in 1998 has been executed.

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