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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid