News / Europe

Jailing of Opposition Leader Stirs Debate in Ukraine

Policemen arrest former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, center rear, in the Pecherskiy District Court in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011
Policemen arrest former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, center rear, in the Pecherskiy District Court in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011
James Brooke

Ignoring American, European and Russian criticism, a Ukrainian judge kept the nation’s leading opposition politician, Yulia Tymoshenko, in jail Monday and proceeded with her court trial.

European officials said the trial could endanger a trade association treaty that Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, wants with the European Union.

Known for her trademark golden braid, Ms. Tymoshenko was expected to be the main opposition candidate in next year’s presidential elections.  But if she is convicted, she will not be eligible to run.

Oleh Soskin, who directs the Institute of Society Transformation, a Kyiv think tank, said that Mr. Yanukovych seeks to “liquidate” his chief political rival while the nation is on vacation.  Soskin, like many Kyiv residents, was at his summer vacation home Monday.

As he spoke, several hundred supporters of Ms. Tymoshenko pitched tents near the downtown Kyiv courthouse, waving flags and chanting, “Yulia, we are with you.”

But Natasha Lysova, a Tymoshenko spokeswoman, worried that summer holidays and government pressure will keep the crowds low.

“Problems for people from the regions to come here, some restrictions from the government for drivers of the buses, for owners of the buses, people cannot just come here,” Lysova said.

While Tymoshenko supporters chanted, “Hands off Tymoshenko,” government supporters chanted, "Yulia, sweat it out in jail."

Government spokespeople say Ms.Tymoshenko is one of 400 former officials under investigation for crimes committed while in office.  But critics say the only cases that have come to trial involve opposition figures.

The Obama administration has warned Ukraine about “selective justice.”

In the trial, Ms. Tymoshenko earned the judge’s enmity by calling him “a monster” and the trial a “farce.”

Over the weekend, she had to share her cell with an inmate who smoked, and she had to comply with prison regulations and let her hair down.

But by Monday morning, her braids were back in place, and she was unbowed.  When the judge walked in, she said, "I will not stand in front of you because it would be kneeling in front of the mafia.  You are not breaking me but Ukraine's young democracy."

On Friday, her arrest stemmed from mocking a witness, current Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, for speaking in Russian, rather than Ukrainian.

Ms. Tymoshenko is charged with abuse of power in connection with a 2009 deal that ended Russia’s midwinter gas cutoff to Ukraine.  Then-prime minister Tymoshenko flew to Moscow and hammered out a deal with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  The Yanukovych government says she broke the law by not consulting her government when signing the deal, an accord which cost Ukraine an extra $190 million.

Analysts say the Kremlin criticizes the trial, partly because Prime Minister Putin’s signature is on the gas deal and partly because Russia does not want to lower gas prices for Ukraine.

On Thursday, President Yanukovych is to break his Crimea vacation and fly across the Black Sea to meet in Sochi with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.  The Kremlin is inviting Ukraine to join Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in a new customs union, an economic grouping that some call "Soviet Union lite."

The meeting will be watched closely by defenders of democracy and by advocates of a Ukrainian free trade pact with the European Union.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid