Tymoshenko warns arrest of lawyer endangers EU-Ukraine agreement

President has kicked to death the EU association deal, claims former PM

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko converses with her lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko converses with her lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

 


Jailed former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has denounced charges brought against her lawyer, calling them an attempt by president Viktor Yanukovich to wreck Kiev’s chances of signing historic political and trade deals with the European Union.

Prosecutors have accused Serhiy Vlasenko of beating his ex-wife, in a development that Ms Tymoshenko says signals the unwillingness of Mr Yanukovich to fulfil an EU demand that Ukraine put an end to politically motivated legal cases.

“Viktor Yanukovich has in recent weeks kicked to death the [EU] association agreement,” she wrote in a letter from hospital, where she is being treated for back problems while serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power. “Bringing absurd criminal cases against my lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko has been done in a calculated . . . way, like the last blow to the heart of Ukrainian hopes of signing the agreement.”

The EU wants to sign deals with Ukraine on political association and the creation of a free trade area at the end of this month, but top officials have suggested that agreement could only be reached if Ms Tymoshenko is released and “selective justice” eradicated.

Two EU envoys to Ukraine, Irish politician Pat Cox and former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, have said Kiev must take decisive steps on these issues before they deliver a report to the European Parliament today or tomorrow.

That report will guide EU foreign ministers on what to do about Ukraine when they meet on November 18th, 10 days before the crucial EU gathering in Lithuania. Russia is putting great pressure on Ukraine not to align with the EU and Mr Yanukovich met Russian president Vladimir Putin for talks last weekend.

Members of Ukraine’s ruling party have in recent days taken a stronger line against releasing Ms Tymoshenko, demanding that if she goes abroad for treatment she must later return to Ukraine to complete her prison term.

Opposition figures say Mr Yanukovich is too scared to free Ms Tymoshenko, his most popular rival, who has vowed to oust him and investigate the corruption that she claims has flourished since he narrowly beat her in the 2010 presidential election.

“I urge all EU leaders, Ukrainian civil society and opposition to act immediately and ensure that under any conditions the agreement is signed,” wrote Ms Tymoshenko (52). “We cannot allow Yanukovich’s back-room conspiracies and personal phobias to finally destroy Ukraine’s European path.”