Ukraine pushing to remove Tymoshenko obstacle to EU deals
EU envoys try to break impasse over former premier’s controversial seven-year jail sentence for abuse of power
German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle (right) and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kozhara in Kiev. Mr Westerwelle warned yesterday that time is running out for Ukraine to be ready to sign landmark deals with the EU next month. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters
Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, has said he intends to resolve the controversial case of jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko soon, as top European Union officials warned that time was running out for Kiev to be ready to sign landmark deals with the bloc next month.
Ireland’s Pat Cox, a former president of the European Parliament, and former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, are acting as EU envoys in trying to break an impasse over the issue of Ms Tymoshenko’s controversial seven-year jail sentence for abuse of power.
The EU and United States say she and several allies are the victims of politically motivated prosecutions, and Brussels has warned Ukraine that it will not be offered major deals on political association and free trade with the EU next month unless Ms Tymoshenko’s case is resolved.
Those agreements could dramatically reduce Russia’s political and economic grip on Ukraine and realign the country of 45 million people with the West. Moscow has warned Kiev that it could take tough countermeasures if Ukraine signs the EU pacts.
“We are left with the most painful question, the Tymoshenko question, but the Cox-Kwasniewski mission is working, we are working together, and I hope that in the near future we fill conclusively figure out how to solve this question,” Mr Yanukovych said yesterday.
Mr Cox and Mr Kwasniewski have formally asked Mr Yanukovych to pardon Ms Tymoshenko, who was imprisoned in 2011 for authorising a gas deal with Russia that allegedly was ruinously expensive for Ukraine. She denies the charge, and others subsequently lodged against her. The EU envoys have also asked Ms Tymoshenko to accept a German offer to treat her for back problems.
She said she would go to Germany for the sake of Ukraine and its ties with the EU – but vowed to clear her name and to continue her political struggle with Mr Yanukovych. Mr Yanukovych insists he is determined to sign the EU deals and tighten Ukraine’s relations with the bloc but he also claims that he cannot do anything about the court’s ruling on Ms Tymoshenko – his fiercest and most popular opponent.
Germany is pushing hard for a solution, and its foreign minister Guido Westerwelle warned yesterday in Kiev that time was short. “We still have an opened window of opportunity, and it is not to be excluded that this window of opportunity could also once again close,” he said.