News / Europe

Tymoshenko Trial is Test of Democracy in Ukraine

Ludmila Aleksandrovna, 62, a Yulia Tymoshenko supporter protests in Kyiv, August 15, 2011
Ludmila Aleksandrovna, 62, a Yulia Tymoshenko supporter protests in Kyiv, August 15, 2011

Multimedia

James Brooke

Nearly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a grudge match between two political giants is testing democracy in Ukraine, the second most populous country to emerge from the Soviet Union, after Russia.

In a sidewalk camp outside a Kyiv courthouse, photos of Yulia Tymoshenko are everywhere.  But the former prime minister, with her trademark golden braids, is out of sight.

The closest her supporters get is in the evenings, when she is whisked back to her prison cell in a windowless gray police van.

One year after narrowly losing Ukraine's presidential elections, Tymoshenko is on trial, accused of abusing her powers when she signed a gas deal with Russia in her role as prime minister.

Outside the courtroom, is her chief of staff, Mykhaylo Livinsky.  He says democracy is on trial.  He says the losers of the Orange Revolution are now putting the winners on trial.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at a court hearing in Kyiv, Aug 11, 2011
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at a court hearing in Kyiv, Aug 11, 2011

Back in 2004, Tymoshenko helped lead the Orange Revolution that annulled the fraudulent election of Viktor Yanukovych.  But last year, Yanukovych beat Tymoshenko in elections widely seen as fair.

Now, her supporters see the trial as political payback that threatens democracy.

Olga Mola, 30, a school teacher, is camping on a downtown sidewalk, protesting the trial of her political heroine.  She says that a guilty verdict would mean that Ukraine is a lawless nation.

But Ludmila Soloviova and other supporters of President Yanukovych say the fight against corruption has to start somewhere.  She says it is not logical that a politician suspected of corruption cannot be put on trial simply because she is popular.

Ukraine Foreign Ministry Spokesman Oleg Voloshyn is getting used to combating criticism coming from capitals as diverse as Washington and Moscow.

"We are asked not to prosecute her just because she is an opposition leader?  She is not Nelson Mandela.  She is not Mahatma Ghandi.  She is not Martin Luther King.  She is nothing like that.  She is suspected to be guilty of high treason of Ukrainian national interest," said Voloshyn.

Voloshyn says Ukraine's president does not control the nation's courts.

But Institute of World Policy Director Alyona Getmanchuk says Ukrainians sympathize with underdogs.  She says the trial is rehabilitating Tymoshenko, after her poor performance as prime minister.

She says Ukrainians and foreigners see this as a political case, not a criminal case.  Like many analysts, Getmanchuk sees the trial as the latest chapter in a long-running grudge match between the nation's two most powerful politicians.

Getmanchuk adds thats the president's effort to get rid of his main political rival may backfire.  Time in jail may boost Tymoshenko's popularity.

But a conviction, even followed by a suspended sentence, would render Tymoshenko ineligible to run for office in next year's parliamentary elections or the 2015 presidential election.

Yuli Weeks' slideshow:

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid