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26th Jan 2020

Tymoshenko on hunger strike over EU treaty

  • Orthodox priest at Kiev protest on Sunday (Photo: mac_ivan)

Ukraine's best known opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, has said she will not eat until President Viktor Yanukovych signs an EU treaty.

"I am going on an indefinite hunger strike with a demand for Yanukovych to sign the association and free trade agreements with the EU," she declared in a communique sent to press by her political party on Monday (25 November).

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She said she is doing it "as a sign of unity and solidarity" with anti-Yanukovych protesters.

She dubbed his administration "an authoritarian mafia" and called on demonstrators to "wipe him off Ukraine’s face by peaceful and constitutional means" if he does not change his mind.

For his part, Yanukovych said on TV the same day he took the "difficult decision" because "millions" of people would have lost their jobs if he signed.

He described himself as the "father" of "our big Ukrainian family."

He also said he will continue to make reforms "to build a society of European standards in Ukraine" despite the treaty fiasco.

The two adversaries spoke out after tens of thousands of people came to anti-Yanukovych rallies over the weekend.

Protesters in central Kiev on Monday evening fought police for 30 minutes after breaking into a van believed to contain telephone snooping equipment.

Another demonstration is scheduled for 9am Kiev time on Tuesday.

The hunger strike is Tymoshenko's third one since she was put behind bars in August 2011.

German doctors say she is in bad health to begin with and needs specialist treatment.

Yanukovych claims he said No to the EU pact because Russia threatened to impose a trade ban that would have ruined factories in eastern Ukraine.

But EU diplomats say he did it to win elections in 2015, by keeping Tymoshenko in jail and by keeping the Kremlin off his back.

The EU's top officials, Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, played nice with Yanukovych on Monday.

They said from Brussels they "strongly disapprove of the Russian position and actions" on Ukraine.

They also hinted they might give him more money if things go well, adding "the EU stands ready to be more open and more supportive to those who are willing to engage in reforms."

Yanukovych made his u-turn one week before he was to sign the pact at an EU summit with former Soviet states in Vilnius on 28 November.

Poland's foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, has said he can still make a u-turn on the u-turn via a new decision by Ukraine's Security Council.

EU neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele said he can do it on an EU-Ukraine summit due in "late winter or early spring."

The EU-Ukraine treaty - described by think tanks as a blueprint for Ukraine's future EU accession - was to be the centrepiece of the Lithuania event.

Ukraine's foreign minister, Leonid Kozhara, said Yanukovych will still go to Vilnius despite the nasty atmosphere.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also confirmed she will go.

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