Saturday

2nd Mar 2024

Tymoshenko detention strains EU-Ukraine relations

  • Tymoshenko is a darling of the EPP group in the European Parliament and some senior EU officials (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

European officials have condemned the detention of Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko - a move set to complicate EU-Ukrainian relations ahead of a key summit in December.

The Kiev court ordered the 50-year old Tymoshenko to be put behind bars for the rest of the trial after she "systematically" flouted rules by refusing to stand up and by calling witnesses names.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Prosecutors opened a criminal case against her in April, alleging that in 2009 she abused her powers by forcing state energy company Naftogaz to sign a pricy gas supply contract with Russia's Gazprom. If convicted, she could spend up to 10 years in prison.

Tymoshenko and her allies say the charges are politically motivated and designed to stop her from running in elections next year.

One scenario could see her get a suspended sentence. The verdict would block her from holding any public office but would likely result in less fierce EU and US criticism than if she ended up in jail.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement on Friday (5 August) the bloc is "extremely concerned."

"The EU and other international partners of Ukraine have repeatedly underlined the need for fair, transparent and independent legal processes to avoid any perception of a policy of selective justice. Today's events are therefore a cause for concern about the state of the rule of law in Ukraine."

European Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek noted: "The context and conditions raise concern about the politically motivated nature of this decision, and about the application of the rule of law in Ukraine."

The chief of the European People's Party (EPP), the family of centre right political parties in the EU, Wilfried Martens, said: "I call on [Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovych to put an immediate end to this sham – Europe's patience has reached its limit." Tymoshenko's party is affiliated with the EPP.

Centre-right Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt also reacted on his Twitter page on Friday, saying that the trial is "an embarrassing spectacle" and "does great damage to a great country." The French foreign ministry said it is "strongly concerned."

Images of Tymoshenko in handcuffs could spoil the atmosphere ahead of an important EU-Ukraine summit in December.

Both sides are hoping to initial a political Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement at the event in what Ukraine's EU ambassador recently described as a "geopolitical shift" in Europe, putting the former Soviet province on a long-term road to EU accession.

Yanukovych, a former Soviet apparatchik, was Moscow's preferred candidate in presidential elections in 2004.

He won the vote but was ousted from office after massive street protests - the Orange Revolution - swept into power a pro-Western coalition co-led by Tymoshenko. The original election was later declared a fraud.

Yanukovych returned to office last year after infighting in the orange group exasperated voters and EU allies alike. In the past 12 months he has made moves to appease Russia - notably by allowing its Black Sea fleet to stay in a Ukrainian port in return for cheaper gas - but he has also pushed through pro-EU reforms, paving the way for the December pact.

Grigory Nemyria, Tymoshenko's former deputy prime minister, told this website that her detention will damage Ukraine's European aspirations.

"Today Ukraine has shown not its European, but an ugly, authoritarian face. How can the EU deal with a country ignoring basic human rights? The situation here is not much different than in Belarus: we had 300 special forces deployed in the courtyard," he said.

He added that the government is "clearly testing" to see what the EU response will be and called for a "strong and uniform" reaction from member states.

"I don't know how many tests you need to realise it's a game they are playing," the former minister said.

In an interview with the New York Times earlier this week, Tymoshenko said she is "ready for anything", including spending years in jail.

"I am ready to fight, and for the consequences of fighting," she said. "In this fight, I see a very important goal. I see the defence of Ukraine. And I am relying on the support of that part of society that sees Ukraine as a successful, competitive and independent European country."

Correction: the story was amended at 1.30pm Brussels time on 8 August 2011. The original text incorrectly said Nemyria is the former foreign minister of Ukraine

Tymoshenko to EU: I fear for my safety in prison

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.

Opinion

Ukraine's managed democracy

President Victor Yanukovych's Ukraine seems firmly on the road towards 'managed democracy', an increasingly popular type of rule among post-Soviet leaders, writes Natalia Shapovalova, researcher at the European think-tank Fride.

Ukraine looks to free Tymoshenko, salvage EU pact

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has indicated he will change the law in order to end the controversial trial of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. But the affair has done lasting damage to EU relations.

EU turns the screw on Tymoshenko trial

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.

EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

The European Commission will release €50m out of €82m in funds for the UN aid agency (UNRWA) operating in Gaza. The remaining €32m will come pending an audit. The commission has received no evidence to support Israeli allegations against UNRWA.

Opinion

The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse

With Alexei Navalny's funeral in Moscow on Friday, Vladimir Putin's regime haven't just insulted his mother and widow with their treatment of his corpse — they've breached international treaties and conventions.

Latest News

  1. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit
  2. 'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child
  3. Commission plays down row over Rwanda minerals pact
  4. EU socialists set to anoint placeholder candidate
  5. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  6. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  7. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  8. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us