Sunday

3rd Mar 2024

Moment of truth for EU-Ukraine treaty

  • Tymoshenko during her trial in 2011. German doctors say she needs surgery for chronic back pain (Photo: Ridge Consulting)

The lawyer of Ukraine's jailed former PM, Yulia Tymoshenko, has said nothing stands in the way of a historic EU treaty except President Viktor Yanukovych's say-so.

Tymoshenko's counsel spoke to EUobserver on Sunday (6 October) following a dramatic development.

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Last week, envoys from the European Parliament met with Yanukovych in Kiev to hand him Tymoshenko's written agreement to leave Ukraine to seek medical treatment in Germany.

If he pardons her so she can go, EU leaders have all but promised to sign a political association and free trade pact with him at a summit in Vilnius in November.

They have also said the trade bit can enter into life before it is ratified by EU states, opening EU markets to Ukraine's energy, metals and pharmaceuticals oligarchs.

Tymoshenko's lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, said the pardon does not ask for much.

It would free her from a seven year jail sentence for "abuse of office" while PM. But it does not ask for full rehabilitation, meaning she could not run against him in upcoming elections.

It says nothing on her $190 million fine. It also says nothing on three other, ongoing, Tymoshenko prosecutions: on a contract murder; on tax evasion; and on embezzlement.

If there is no pardon, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is anyway expected to overturn the abuse of office verdict by March next year.

Yanukovych has kept quiet so far.

But, on Friday, he demoted Renat Kuzmin, a prosecutor who led the legal onslaught on Tymoshenko.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the President is to meet counterparts from Germany, Italy and Poland in the Polish city of Krakow, giving him a golden opportunity to take the pro-EU step.

Vlasenko warned not to read too much into the Kuzmin move, however.

"It means nothing in itself. Tomorrow, he could appoint a Muzmin or a Shmuzmin to do the same job," he told this website.

In a negative sign, two Yanukovych spokespersons, MPs Inna Bohoslovska and Volodymyr Oliynyk, on a Ukrainian TV show on Friday said Yanukovych does not have the legal power to simply free her.

But Vlasenko said he does.

"He can do it under article 106, paragraph 27, of the Ukrainian constitution … He can take a piece of paper, take a pen from his pocket, write 'I hereby pardon, and so on,' and it is done," the lawyer noted.

He said Yanukovych did precisely this for a Tymoshenko ex-minister in April.

Vlasenko predicted Yanukovych will hide behind a state committee on pardons to delay his decision. But he said the committee's power is purely consultative: "They can say 'No,' and he can say 'Yes,' or vice versa. He doesn't even have to ask them."

The Vilnius treaty is a turning point in Ukraine's history.

If Yanukovych says Yes, Ukraine will, slowly, become more like EU countries with a chance, but no promise, to one day join the Union.

If he says No, it will most likely be pulled into Russia's Customs Union, auguring decades of Russian domination and lack of rule of law.

But some EU diplomats say Yanukovych favours a third option - the status quo, or, keeping Ukraine out of the EU and the Russian spheres as his own fiefdom.

For his part, Yanukovych Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, noted on Saturday that even if the President says Yes, it does not mean Yes.

"By signing the association agreement with the European Union, Ukraine will not lose its sovereignty and the right to make independent decisions … If Ukraine later concludes that it is possible to participate … in the Customs Union, the decision will be taken via a referendum," he told the Interfax news agency.

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