News / Europe

Europe Presses Ukraine Leader on Tymoshenko Deal

People pass by a poster of Ukraine's imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko at a tent camp of her supporters in central Kyiv, Ukraine, in this April 30, 2013, file photo. The text on top reads:
People pass by a poster of Ukraine's imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko at a tent camp of her supporters in central Kyiv, Ukraine, in this April 30, 2013, file photo. The text on top reads: "No to political repressions."
Reuters
He might be ready to let her out. But he can't afford to let her back.

As deadlines near on the future of Ukraine's ties with Europe, President Viktor Yanukovych is under pressure to put aside personal animosity and let his jailed opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, go to Germany for medical treatment.

Softening Yanukovych's hardline stance on his arch-rival is seen as crucial if Ukraine is to secure the signing of landmark agreements, including a free trade deal, with the European Union at a November summit.

But, diplomats say, the 63-year-old former truck driver knows that allowing her to rejoin the political fray would endanger his run at a second term in 2015, given her formidable populist appeal and her organizational skills.

“The proposal is for Tymoshenko to go for treatment in Germany on condition that she does not take part in Ukraine's political life,” wrote Dmitry Korotkov in Segodnya newspaper.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, second left, inspects navy ships with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol in the Crimea, July 28, 2013.Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, second left, inspects navy ships with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol in the Crimea, July 28, 2013.
x
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, second left, inspects navy ships with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol in the Crimea, July 28, 2013.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, second left, inspects navy ships with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol in the Crimea, July 28, 2013.
Others were more blunt. “He wants her politically dead,” one diplomat told Reuters.

The bile between Yanukovych and the sharp-tongued Tymoshenko has poisoned Ukrainian politics for years. The former prime minister emerged as his nemesis in the 2004 “Orange Revolution” when she used her powerful skills as an orator to lead street protests against vote-rigging, dooming his first bid for power.

Her defeat by Yanukovych in a bitterly-fought run-off vote in February 2010, in which she heaped insults on him, led her to a prison cell, say her supporters.

Since late 2011 she has been serving a seven-year jail term after being convicted of abuse-of-office, most of it under guard in a hospital where she is being treated for back trouble.

Political revenge

Tymoshenko denies any wrongdoing and says her prosecution is political revenge - a view shared by the European Union which has denounced her case as “selective justice” in the former Soviet republic.

From her hospital room, Tymoshenko continues to berate Yanukovych, accusing him of plundering the country's resources to enrich himself, his family and his coterie of favorites.

At a March news conference Yanukovych declined to give a direct answer about his wealth or that of his elder son, Olexander, a wealthy businessman, but routinely dismisses such charges as politically motivated.

Tymoshenko's critics lay similar charges at her door, pointing to the personal fortune she amassed in the 1990s as a businesswoman operating in a murky gas industry - activity which earned her the nickname of 'the gas princess.'

'Humanitarian' gesture

For some months now, E.U. heavyweight Germany has been formulating a plan to provide Yanukovych with a way out - quietly pushing a “humanitarian” solution in which Tymoshenko could be received for medical treatment in a Berlin hospital.

This formula - so the logic goes - would allow Yanukovych to show himself in a good light and might ensure signing of planned agreements on political association and free trade with the European Union at the Vilnius, Lithuania, summit.

“In his intensive exchanges with counterparts in the Ukrainian government, Foreign Minister [Guido] Westerwelle has reiterated the government's offer of medical treatment for Yulia Tymoshenko in Germany,” the German Foreign Ministry said in Berlin.

Envoys from the European Parliament who also last April helped secure the release of a Tymoshenko ally, visited Ukraine again last week, pushing “the German option” as a way of breaking the deadlock over Tymoshenko.

But it is still unclear which way Yanukovych will jump as his administration continues to pile up charges against her.

Fearing a Tymoshenko comeback

Yanukovych's fears Tymoshenko could re-emerge as a political threat to him, no matter what the conditions attached to a humanitarian pardon, have led to tortuous negotiations, an E.U. insider said.

According to this source, the Yanukovych camp is insisting as part of any deal that she must pay back more than 1.5 billion hryvnias (about $188 million) in estimated damages to the Ukrainian economy caused by her alleged reckless conduct as prime minister.

“The thinking is that that would prevent her [from] financing any campaign against him,” the source said.

Brushing off E.U. charges of “selective justice”, Yanukovych's aides repeat the mantra that the rule of law has to be respected.

Potential rewards

Yet an end to the impasse promises Yanukovych rich rewards.

The free-trade agreement potentially on offer from the European Union would open up a huge market for Ukrainian exports - steel, grain, chemicals and food products - and provide a powerful spur for much-needed foreign investment.

That would be a boon for a country traditionally reliant on trade with Russia and guarantee Yanukovych a place in the history books, something aides say he still aspires to.

An E.U. deal is also in the interests of influential power brokers in Ukraine such as steel billionaire Rinat Akhmetov and others, and Yanukovych has consistently set European integration as a foreign policy priority.

Nevertheless, only a change of power in 2015 and the end of the Yanukovych leadership is likely to secure early release for the ambitious Tymoshenko.

She is under family pressure to protect her health but knows departure might end her political career in politics.

Second term within reach

For despite low ratings due to popular anger over low wages, high prices, poor social services and endemic corruption, Yanukovych looks well placed for re-election in 2015 - as long as Tymoshenko remains out of the running.

Opposition figures such as world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko and former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk have failed to agree on a single candidate to challenge him.

Though opinion polls now show Yanukovych well behind in any straight fight with Klitschko, most commentators believe he will be able to marshal the resources of wealthy entrepreneurs and a tamed press to ensure a second term.

So as time for a deal runs out - the mediation mandate of two European parliament envoys expires at the end of September - Yanukovych has yet to signal he is ready to compromise.

“The cost of letting her go is too much to President Yanukovych personally,” said Olha Shumylo-Tapiola, visiting scholar of Carnegie Europe in Brussels.

“If Tymoshenko gets out somehow, this would be a real threat for Yanukovych. Even if she could not run in the election, she has very strong organizational powers. She is still considered a very dangerous person for the authorities,” she said.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs