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24th Feb 2024

EU sends mixed signals on Tymoshenko exclusion

A prominent MEP has said Ukraine's decision to exclude Yulia Tymoshenko from parliamentary elections means a priori they will be unfair. But the European Commission disagrees.

The Central Election Commission on 8 August declined to register Tymoshenko - a former PM and the leader of the main opposition party, United Opposition Batkivshchyna - for the poll on 28 October on grounds that she is serving a prison sentence for abuse of office.

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  • Tymoshenko waving from a prison van during her trial last year (Photo: byut.org)

It also declined to register Yuri Lutsenko, a Tymoshenko ally, on grounds that he is in prison for embezzlement.

The EU and the European Court of Human Rights have in the past said their trials were flawed and politically motivated.

For good measure, Ukraine's deputy prosecutor general Renat Kuzmin last week also told Ukrainian media he has "enough grounds" to charge Tymoshenko with being accessory to a 1990s gangland murder.

Batkivshchyna and its EU allies say the exclusion of the main opposition candidates has made the elections a farce before they take place.

"[It] will lead to the further isolation of the current regime," the party said in a statement.

Elmar Brok, a German centre-right MEP and the head of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, told EUobserver on Monday (13 August): "If the opposition cannot fully run with their people ... there are no fair elections. It's not enough to have things in order only on election day."

"There has been a clear decision by the EU Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission that free and fair election are a condition for the signature and ratification of the [EU-Ukraine] association agreement and free trade agreement," he added.

For its part, the European Commission in an emailed statement on Monday took a softer line.

It said only that the latest developments "are not helping to remove EU's concerns in relation to Ukraine" and that jurists such as Kuzmin should not "make public statements which appear to prejudge the outcome of ongoing judicial processes."

It added that Tymoshenko's exclusion is "unfortunately a logical consequence" of her incarceration, no matter how dodgy the trial.

An EU official told this website: "We can't prejudge the outcome of elections at this stage. Who knows what the authorities could still come up with to enable them to run? They have been quite creative in the past."

An EU diplomat noted that Batkivshchyna's decision to put forward their names was "symbolic" because "everybody knew" they would be rejected.

He said that Kiev has put the EU in a "delicate situation."

"Odihr [Europe's Warsaw-based electoral monitoring body] does not have a mandate to look at the quality of the judicial processes. So if the elections are OK in terms of other EU and international standards, its report will probably be positive ... and Odihr's report is traditionally the bible when it comes to US and EU recognition," he explained.

"Politically you can't separate these issues, but formally speaking Odihr must separate them," he added on the trials/election cocktail.

A spokesman for Odihr, Thomas Rymer, told EUobserver also on Monday that: "It would be premature to comment on this or other important issues before the Election Observation Mission has had the opportunity to observe and assess the process."

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