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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More