Ukraine probes 'sniper attack' on top prosecutor

Kiev (AFP) - Ukraine on Tuesday launched a criminal probe into an alleged sniper attack on a top prosecutor who had been probing President Petro Poroshenko's main political and business foes.

The reported assassination bid would mark yet another unwanted political conflict in a crisis-hit country whose 18-month eastern pro-Russian revolt has already killed more than 8,000 people and destroyed swathes of its economy.

The State Security Service (SBU) said the attempt on Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin's life was made during an emergency meeting in his central Kiev office late on Monday.

Ukraine's military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said only bulletproof glass prevented the three rounds from causing harm.

"The sniper fired using a heat sensor because all the curtains had been drawn," Matios was quoted as saying by the Ukrainska Pravda website.

"Seeing any shadows was simply impossible," he stressed.

The claimed attack came a day after security agents detained the right-hand man of anti-Poroshenko oligarch Igor Kolomoyskiy -- founder of the Ukrop (Dill) populist party in the government-run central region of Dnipropetrovsk.

Gennadiy Korban -- a Kolomoyskiy trustee who has been forced to repeatedly deny ties to organised crime -- was arrested as part of a crackdown on state corruption that factored in the pro-Russian government's ouster by pro-EU rallies last year.

Korban's Ukrop party called the probe a form of "political repression" against "patriots".

Matios said the reported sniper was hiding on top of a building of a pro-Russian group that both Kolomoyskiy and Poroshenko have been trying to fight.

- 'Only the start' -

Poroshenko on Sunday vowed to launch to slash through the bonds between politics and big business that the West said had recently turned the nation of around 40 million into Europe's second-poorest state.

Global lenders have delayed releasing urgently-needed loans due to the perceived lack of desire by Poroshenko -- himself a TV magnate and chocolate baron -- to get into open fights with tycoon he personally knew very well.

Critics have also accused Poroshenko of applying selective justice that was more lenient to presidential supporters who had allegedly committed the same crimes.

Ukraine has been decimated by post-Soviet political infighting that has seen winning parties jail their predecessor on often contentious charges.

But the 50-year-old Ukrainian leader vowed on Sunday that "no one will enjoy immunity."

Hundreds of Korban's supporters -- many waving light green party flags and holding up banners demanding "freedom for political prisoners" -- on Tuesday rallied in the Kiev centre demanding their leader's release.

Poroshenko in 2014 appointed Kolomoyskiy -- a banking and metals magnate whose reported fortune of $1.9 billion (1.7 billion euros) has ranked him as Ukraine's third-richest man -- as Dnipropetrovsk to keep pro-Russian rebels at bay.

But Poroshenko sacked him in March after accusing the 52-year-old of setting up his own militia and trying to hold on to a state-affiliated oil company.

Most analysts believe that the prosecutor general -- nominated for parliamentary approval by the president -- is keen to delve deeply into the entire Dnipropetrovsk case.