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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
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.
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.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid