9th Feb 2023

EU-Ukraine meeting increasingly unlikely

  • Sign at the Chernobyl site in Ukraine. The danger is growing that EU-Ukraine relations will suffer a major upset this week (Photo: Ratcliff, Trey)

The Ukrainian government has said there is no chance former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko will go free before a planned visit to Brussels by President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday (20 October).

MPs will on Tuesday debate proposed amendments to Ukrainian law that would decriminalise the Tymoshenko charges and let her walk. The proposal comes amid an EU outcry that Yanukovych fixed the trial to harm his rival and amid repeated warnings that relations will be put on hold if he does not make amends.

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Speaking to EUobserver from Kiev on Tuesday, a senior aide to Yanukovych, Anna Herman, said not to expect any decisions in the coming days because there is no consensus among ruling coalition MPs.

"I hope some way out will be sought for and found out of the situation but at this point in time I would say we do not have a joint position on the way out," she said.

"There are various moods and various opinions among the ruling majority MPs. First, the authorities have to establish a dialogue with the opposition. Such a dialogue does not exist today. Instead we have an increasingly sharpening tone from the minority party MPs."

For his part, President Yanukovych took a defiant line at a late-night briefing on Monday with foreign correspondents in Kiev.

"All points of view have a right to exist and to be respected. We would like to be treated that way as well, because often we have the sense that others simply don't want to listen to what we have to say," he said on the EU's rejection of his word that the Tymoshenko trial was free and fair.

He noted he will fly out on Thursday in any case for meetings in Latin America, but that he would be happy to skip the planned talks in Brussels if the EU un-invites him.

"The Europeans have not confirmed the meeting, but I will leave on Thursday in any case, to fly in that direction ... I am not going begging from anyone. If there is a need to meet, I am ready. If not, I will fly further."

Asked by this website if Yanukovych would be content to visit Brussels to talk about Tymoshenko instead of the original agenda on details of an EU trade and association pact, Anna Herman added: "Today, we have to talk about and think about Ukraine, about the people who live here and who have made their European choice."

With Yanukovych set to hold talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine about strategic energy issues on Tuesday, the risk is growing that Moscow will strike a last-minute deal with Kiev and derail its EU integration plans.

"Brussels has a real dilemma. But the problem is [unless he frees Tymoshenko] we have nothing to talk about," an EU diplomat said, referring to the Thursday meeting.

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