- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

The Ukrainian immigrant suspected in the killing of six family members, including his pregnant wife and 3-year-old son, gained entry to the United States three years ago by claiming religious persecution in his homeland.

Federal authorities said yesterday that Nikolay Soltys, the focus of a nationwide manhunt with a $30,000 bounty on his head in the fatal stabbing of his wife, child, uncle, aunt and two cousins in Sacramento, Calif., arrived in this country in 1998 among thousands of immigrants seeking to escape political turmoil and economic hardship in Ukraine.

The 27-year-old was granted refugee status after telling U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials that he feared religious persecution in his home country. He was among hundreds of other Christian Pentecostals who have fled to the United States from the Ukraine as religious refugees, according to authorities.

INS spokesman Bill Strassberger declined to comment on the Soltys matter, citing federal privacy concerns.

But U.S. officials have estimated that between 1 million and 2 million people of Ukrainian descent live in the United States, and that Christian Pentecostals make up a majority of those who have arrived as religious refugees since 1990.

A refugee is defined under U.S. law as a person outside of his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

Mr. Soltys is an unemployed shoemaker with a history of domestic violence who once was rejected for service in the Ukrainian military because of suspected mental instability. He is accused of killing his family members, including his 23-year-old pregnant wife, Lyubov, in a plot police said yesterday had been carefully planned. Part of the scheme, detectives said, included the use of new toys to lure his son to his death.

He is believed to still be in the Sacramento area. Sacramento, with 1.8 million people, is home to more than 75,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, mostly from Russia and Ukraine.

Authorities said Mr. Soltys initially lived in Binghamton, N.Y., following his arrival in the United States. He moved his family to the Sacramento area about seven months ago, where he had said he was going to attend college.

Before moving from Ukraine, Mr. Soltys had been married twice, with both marriages marred by domestic violence.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Soltys is suspected in the deaths of an uncle, Petr Kukharskiy, 75, and an aunt, Galina Kukharskaya, 74; and their two grandchildren, Dimitriy Kukharskiy and Tatyana Kukhar-skaya, both 9. The children were cousins.

No motive for the killings has yet been established.

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