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23rd Feb 2020

Tymoshenko makes emotional plea to save EU-Ukraine treaty

  • Tymoshenko in a huddle with her defence team in court (Photo: byut.com.ua)

Jailed former Ukrainian leader Yulia Tymoshenko has urged EU countries to sign a new treaty with her country no matter what happens to her personally.

Writing in a three-page letter on Wednesday (2 November) entitled "Appeal to the nations, parliaments and leaders of the European Union" she accused the "authoritarian regime" of President Viktor Yanukovych of trying to "sabotage" EU integration for the sake of better ties with Russia.

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She added: "To begin to recover our liberty, we urgently need the assistance of the world's democratic community. Such urgent assistance would be signing of the association and free trade agreements between Ukraine and the European Union."

"I cannot allow my personal freedom to be the reason for the death of the European dream of Ukraine's people."

The letter was designed to make an emotional impact. "My cell allows but a few steps from wall to wall ... A small window through the crossed bars allows me to catch a glimpse of blue autumn sky," she wrote.

EU officials cancelled a meeting with Yanukovych in Brussels last month after courts imprisoned her for seven years for allegedly breaking rules in a 2009 gas contract with Russia.

Brussels decided to keep going with technical-level negotiations on the agreement, however.

An EU-Ukraine summit is also scheduled for early December in Kiev. The original idea was to initial the text during the event. But there is a fair chance the summit will also be put off.

An EU source said Brussels has no idea how many other criminal procedures have been lodged against Tymoshenko since the gas verdict, whether Yanukovych is trying to use her as a bargaining chip to get better terms in the treaty or whether he has turned his back on the West.

"There is absolutely no understanding between the two sides any more. It's like Martians talking to people from Jupiter," the source said.

The EU expects Tymoshenko to spend at least two years in prison.

Acting prosecutor general Rinat Kuzmin has told Ukrainian media he also wants to try her for allegedly embezzling $405 million from Ukraine in a 1997 gas deal with Russia, a separate VAT embezzlement worth $200 million, tax evasion worth up to $30 million and the contract killing in 1996 of MP Yevhen Shcherban.

The EU contact said Tymoshenko's letter is aimed at making sure Western politicians do not forget about her, but will have "no effect" on the EU-Ukraine treaty process.

"She's finished as a political player in Ukraine. Like Napoleon in St. Helena, all she can do now is write her memoirs," he noted.

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