EU warns Ukraine that key deals depend on Tymoshenko’s release from prison
Bloc takes tough stance over release of former prime minister
Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko: trade agreements between Ukraine and the EU hinge on whether president Viktor Yanukovich can bring himself to release her. Photograph: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP
The European Union has warned Ukraine that it will not be offered landmark political and trade deals later this year unless former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is freed from jail.
The agreements would deepen Ukraine’s ties with the EU and potentially reduce Russia’s influence on the country, but they appear to hinge on whether president Viktor Yanukovich can bring himself to release Ms Tymoshenko, his fiercest critic and most popular opponent.
She was jailed for seven years in 2011 for abuse of office while premier, for allegedly signing a gas supply deal with Russia that was ruinously expensive for Ukraine.
The EU says the case was just one example of selective justice being used by Mr Yanukovich against his enemies.
“The request from the European Union on Tymoshenko’s case is still on the table and, without a solution, I do not see a possibility for the signature,” said Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania, which currently holds the EU presidency.
Senior EU officials, speaking after meeting Mr Yanukovich in Yalta on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, said the country must resolve Ms Tymoshenko’s case and reform electoral law and legislation relating to the prosecutor general’s office before a November summit.
“Without these, there will be no signing,” Ms Grybauskaite said. “There must be no illusions that just a little bit can be done or something be done only in a first reading in parliament.”
Stefan Fuele, the EU’s enlargement commissioner, underlined the bloc’s tough stance: “I hope nobody in Ukraine will think that now the EU is lowering the bar and leaving the conditions we set up in December behind . . . I can’t see this happening.”
Mr Yanukovich, who has come under great pressure from Russia to abandon plans for closer EU integration, said Ukraine hadn’t “yet said ‘yes’ or ‘no’” to her release. He said the courts must rule on the abuse of power case and other charges she is facing.
“The answer lies in finding a compromise with the participation of Tymoshenko,” he said, perhaps hinting that she would have to admit her guilt before he could grant her a presidential pardon.