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: "No to political repressions."
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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid