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16th Sep 2019

Tymoshenko ally cries out to EU after health scare

  • Tymoshenko supporters hold up posters in Kiev (Photo: byut.com.ua)

A top ally of former Ukrainian leader Yulia Tymoshenko has accused authorities of trying to "kill" her after a health scare in prison at the weekend.

Former deputy prime minister and Tymoshenko party MP Hyorhiy Nemyria told EUobserver on Tuesday (10 January): "The more you think and the more you put the facts in line, the more logical it seems that the authorities are trying to solve this problem by killing her."

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He said that what happened in the Kachanivska penal colony in eastern Ukraine on the night of 7 January was not in itself an attempted murder but is part of a process designed to physically destroy the opposition leader.

"We have this from Soviet times - whatever happens to political opponents usually takes place as a 'natural cause' and then they can say: 'Sorry. This is a fact of life' ... It would be absurd to try to kill her [for example] with a gun. But the way things are developing, it shows they are trying to eliminate her."

According to the Tymoshenko camp, prison doctors on the night gave her two kinds of medication - one for flu and one for back pain - before her blood pressure fell to 60/40 and she lost consciousness. Her cell mate banged on the door to raise the alarm. But despite this and despite the cell being under 24-hour camera surveillance, it took 20 minutes before medics came to "bring [her] back to life."

The prison service also on Tuesday published a different version of events.

Its statement said Tymoshenko felt "unwell" and asked her cell mate to call staff, who arrived four minutes later. It added that MRI and Cat scans as well as a blood test later showed that her health is "satisfactory."

Nemyria - who has the ear of senior centre-right politicians in EU capitals and the European Parliament - is treading a fine line between drawing attention to Tymoshenko's predicament and maintaining his credibility.

For their part, EU diplomats are trying to find out what happened on 7 January, but authorities - except for one occasion on 13 December - have refused to let them see her or to bring in their own doctors.

Using a different logic to Nemyria, one EU diplomat said it is in President Viktor Yanukovych's interest to make sure "that not a hair is harmed on her head" because if she died it would ruin any hope of EU integration - a key aspect of his foreign policy in defending Ukraine's independence from Russia.

Another EU diplomat said Yanukovych is becoming increasingly unpredictable, however. His political opponent back in 2004 - former president Viktor Yushchenko - survived an assassination attempt using dioxin poison.

Fresh blow to EU relations

In a further blow to EU-Ukraine relations, the Czech Republic on 6 January granted political asylum to Tymoshenko's husband.

Oleksandr Tymoshenko in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty three days later urged the EU to impose sanctions on Yanukovych and his family. He said he left Ukraine so that authorities could not use "dirty tricks" against him in order to harass his wife after he was named in a corruption probe into business deals 12 years ago.

The Czech Republic in 2011 gave what it calls "international protection" to nine Ukrainian citizens. One of them, Bogdan Danylyshyn is a former Tymoshenko economy minister also accused of corruption.

The Czech actions give weight to the idea that Yanukovych is persecuting his political opponents.

Its foreign ministry said the decisions were made on technical merit by the interior ministry. One contact noted that Czech diplomats are "uneasy" about the asylum cases because they harm Prague's efforts to influence Kiev.

The Czech Republic - a former Communist country - has a tradition of sheltering people from post-Soviet states. It is a popular destination with Ukrainians because its language is similar and because it already has an ex-Ukrainian minority of over 130,000 people.

A man called Oleksandr Tymoshenko is registered as part-owner of a Czech-based firm, International Industrial Projects. Danylyshyn after arriving in Prague last January set up an anti-Yanukovych NGO called Ukrainian-European Perspective.

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