29th Sep 2023

EU turns the screw on Tymoshenko trial

  • Tymoshenko - the trial of 'beautiful Yulia' or the 'gas princess' has captivated Ukrainians (Photo: Ridge Consulting)

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.

Speaking after talks with fellow EU ministers in Poland on Saturday (3 September), Sikorski said EU institutions will no-matter-what aim to initial the trade and political association pact at a Ukraine summit in December.

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But he predicted the treaties will be still-born if the Tymoshenko trial goes badly.

Sikroski said: "We agree with the [Ukrainian] opposition that unless there is some kind of drastic developmet, the negotiations can go on."

He added, however: "Negotiations with EU structures are one thing, but ratification of the potential agreement by national parliaments and the European Parliament is another - many European parliaments have a very openly critical stance towad the standards of the processes currently under way in Kiev and I hope the authorities in Kiev treat this very seriously."

Tymoshenko was put on trial for signing an allegedly illegal gas deal with Russia when she was prime minister in 2009.

She risks at least a suspended sentence that would block her from standing in upcoming elections. She could be jailed for up to 10 years, however. Tymoshenko herself told EUobserver she fears she could be murdered in prison.

The trial is an explosive issue inside Ukraine and in terms of EU-Ukraine and EU-Russia relations.

EU institutions lean to the view that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is abusing the courts to silence a political enemy. Some EU diplomats say Tymoshenko is a Russian stooge trying to spoil EU-Ukraine relations. Ukrainian commentators say the EU is interfering in the judicial process. If Tymoshenko is found guilty, Kiev might void the 2009 gas deal, leading to a new energy war with Russia in winter.

For her part, EU foreign relations chief Cathy Ashton backed Sikroski. "Ratification processes will of course be taken by parliaments and countries in what they believe is the right way for them to go forward."

EU ministers on Saturday also informally agreed to open talks on Ukraine-type Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with former Soviet countries Georgia and Moldova.

They gave Belarus the cold shoulder, however.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashanko in the run-up to the EU meeting in Poland pardoned 13 junior political prisoners and called for new Belarus-EU-Russia talks. The 13 signed statements saying they are guilty.

Ashton said the EU position - that all political prisoners must be released and fully rehabilitated before new talks - is "unchanged."

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