Saturday

2nd Jul 2022

Tymoshenko to EU: I fear for my safety in prison

  • Tymoshenko greets well-wishers outside court in Kiev. The trial has glued people to their TV screens over the summer (Photo: byut.com.ua)

Embattled former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has told EUobserver that Ukraine's current administration is so rotten she is afraid of being killed while she is in prison.

She spoke out in a written statement sent shortly before Kiev's appeal court on Friday (12 August) rejected her request for bail.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Asked by this website if she fears for her personal safety, she said: "Of course I do. I am aware of the Stalinist saying that you get rid of the man, you get rid of the problem. There have been too many 'accidents' in the past like the supposed suicide of former interior minister Yuriy Kravchenko, who somehow seemed to have shot himself in the head twice."

Kravchenko was found dead in March one hour before he was to testify about the 10-year-old unsolved murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.

The Gongadze affair in part led to the Orange Revolution which unseated authoritarian president Leonid Kuchma. But Kuchma associates, led by current President Viktor Yanukovych, were voted back into power last year.

Tymoshenko is on trial for signing a pricy and allegedly illegal gas supply contract with Russia while she was prime minister. The court detained her because she refused to stand for the judge and heckled witnesses. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in jail.

Her enemies say she betrayed Ukraine to Russia in return for Kremlin support - and that her actions in court serve Russian interests by spoiling the atmosphere in EU-Ukraine relations. Her friends say Yanukovych is using the law to remove a political rival in a throwback to Kuchma days. EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton and several member states agree.

"I did not stand before the judge as I do not recognise the legitimacy of this court ... This is a show trial where the verdict has been written in advance," Tymoshenko told this website.

She said it is her "dream" to see Ukraine join the EU. She added that a new EU-Ukraine political association agreement and trade pact - to be initialed at a summit in Brussels in December - would be "important stepping stones that draw Ukraine closer towards Europe."

But she advised the EU to think twice before going ahead.

"It would be a setback for Ukraine's European future if they were not finalised but policy makers will no doubt take full stock and ask themselves what kind of state would they be wedding themselves to?" Tymoshenko noted. "If a government will not obey its own domestic laws and constitution, why should European governments have any faith that it will abide by its treaty obligations?"

The 50-year-old politician used forceful language.

She compared herself to historic US civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King. "I intend to fight for justice in my country ... I will not be bowed. I will not be broken. I will never surrender," she said.

With some commentators saying the trial is a prelude to Kiev reneging on its Russian gas contract this winter, Tymoshenko recalled the situation during the 2009 gas war.

"People in EU countries [which get Russian gas via Ukraine] were shivering as gas supplies were cut off. It was an intolerable situation, for Europe and Ukraine ... At the time our gas infrastructure was close to collapse and would have been damaged if the standoff continued," she said.

"I was left no option but to take the political lead on behalf of the country."

Tymoshenko detention strains EU-Ukraine relations

European officials have condemned the detention of Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko - a move set to complicate EU-Ukrainian relations ahead of a key summit in December.

Ukraine signals readiness to finalise EU pact

Ukraine's EU ambassador has hinted that Kiev is ready to sign a far-reaching pact with the union even if it makes no more concessions on the economy or pro-enlargement wording.

Opinion

Yanukovych's predicament

If the EU fails to realise its Eastern Partnership goals in Ukraine, it will mean failure for the whole policy.

Opinion

Tymoshenko trial: Gas, lies and stereotypes

Most Western diplomats and media do not understand the details of the Tymoshenko trial, but are happy to dive in on her side, argues Ilona Iarmoliuk.

EU turns the screw on Tymoshenko trial

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski has warned Ukraine EU parliaments are likely to block ratification of a landmark pact if harm comes to former leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us