Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

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.

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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."

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